Footnotify and a site redesign

Recently I found a really cool Chrome extension called Footnotify, which takes footnotes (as you see them on Daring Fireball or Wikipedia) and renders them as a hovering box when you click them. If you are a regular reader of either site (or, indeed, a plethora of others) you too might find it handy.

The extension’s elegance and ease of use made me want to put footnotes on my website, too, and so I started fiddling with various footnote extensions for WordPress. Eventually, I got a little disillusioned, since none of them were working quite how I wanted — as a result I sought out PHP Markdown Extra, which includes footnotes and also a host of other neat ways to write online. It’s based on the syntax developed by John Gruber, who runs Daring Fireball, and so the footnotes it generates are guaranteed to work with Footnotify, right?

Wrong. The WordPress theme I was using completely screwed footnotes up, and so I went hunting for a new one. I had been using The Unstandard, which is the theme I’ve successfully implemented and used over on the Leicester Sabres website. It’s a very good theme that’s very visually powerful — for the Sabres, that means that we draw people into the site and get them reading. However, I don’t really do my website for the hits, and so I’m unsure that the very visual theme was suitable. I ended up looking for a new, simple, one-column theme1 and eventually found Blaskan, which is now in use on the site.

As a result, I’ve installed a new plugin ([Markdown Extra]) and installed a new theme (Blaskan). However, they aren’t the only changes, since Blaskan also has good support for smartphones and as a result I no longer need the plugin that enabled the mobile view I previously employed. Good news all round!

There’s one small problem — for some reason, Footnotify doesn’t work properly on the individual blog entries. If you click a footnote on the main homepage it’ll work fine, but on the page for this post, it’s broken. I installed the JavaScript that enables it on a website, in case having it on the site rather than as a Chrome extension was helpful, but that hasn’t changed anything; I’ve gotten in touch with the author and hopefully this will eventually be resolved.

Edited to add: Initially, I had a problem with Footnotify. It would work fine on the homepage, but on the entries’ pages themselves, it didn’t work correctly. After sending a missive to Michel Fortin, I was able to identify it as an issue with a plugin on my website. Something was causing the relative footnote links generated by [Markdown Extra] to become absolute links, and thus breaking the Footnotify plugin. After some trial-and-error, it turns out that it was an issue with Joost de Valk’s Google Analytics for WordPress plugin. I visited de Valk’s website, where I read:

For plugin support, please use the appropriate support forums on WordPress.org. Plugin support emails will be immediately discarded. The only reason the option in the contact form below is there, is so I can more easily filter away those emails for those who don’t bother to read this text.

As such, I couldn’t be bothered to notify him of the bug in his plugin, and am instead using a plugin called Google Analytics which is much simpler to configure and works perfectly for what I need it to do. And now, footnotes work how they should — hurray!


  1. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this theme is not one-column, since it has a sidebar. You’re entirely correct to notice that, but Blaskan can be configured to be one-column and so appears in several lists of such themes. 

Messages Beta on OS X: Return of the error

In my last post I described an issue I’d been having with iMessage, delivery confirmations and Messages on OS X. I fixed the issue by deactivating iMessage in the OS X client, and I thought that was the end of the issue, but I was wrong, because this morning, the same ‘Not Delivered’ messages came back with a vengeance. Now, I am a little obsessive-compulsive and these messages really annoy me,1 so naturally I wanted to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Now, as you may or may not be aware, the Messages beta updates its dock badge to reflect the number of unread http://www.mindanews.com/buy-paxil/ iMessages even when it’s not running. As a result of this, I decided to run the app just to doublecheck it hadn’t done anything since I had quit it the night before.

Guess what I found?

If your guess was that the app had re-enabled iMessage with my Apple ID without my permission and thus resulted in the renaissance of the issues that I thought I had fixed, you guessed correctly – well done. If this happens again, I will be forced to uninstall the Messages beta permanently!


  1. And, given that I never delete messages on my iPhone, they will continue to do so until the end of time. 

Messages Beta on OS X

UPDATE: If you’d like to find out more about the ongoing saga that is my relationship with this app, check out my follow-up post.

I’ve decided to try to make more posts on here about technology (including reviews of apps I use regularly on my iPhone and my iMac), but I have so far spectacularly failed to do so (or, indeed, to blog much at all). I should let you know, though, that I have been using Google Chrome ever since the previous entry and it’s working out great for me. Although, I must confess, recent news of Firefox’s resurgence has reached my ears and I’m glad they’re back on form and doing well.

Today I’m going to talk to you all about Messages. For those that don’t know, Messages is a free public beta currently available from Apple for OS X. As Macworld has reported, it’s the replacement for iChat, and it brings iMessage to OS X as part of Apple’s continued drive to bring iOS features ‘back to the Mac’.

The single window view in Messages for OS X.
The single window view in Messages for OS X.

Messages is great. I love the single-window interface (foreshadowed by Bjango), which is sleek and works very well.1 I’m also a massive fan of being able to send iMessages from my Mac, since typing on a real keyboard is nicer than typing on my iPhone and long iMessage conversations can be a drag. However, last night, I tried to send an iMessage from my Mac and it told me it couldn’t be delivered. I tried resending, but no dice, so I went to bed and tried to send it from my iPhone. This also gave me that red text, but the recipient, España, responded anyway, so I assumed it was just iMessage playing up. España said the same was happening to her, and so we both power cycled our iPhones and reactivated iMessage to no avail. Eventually we switched to Twitter’s Direct Message service (which is what we used for a long time before Apple invented iMessage) to avoid the annoying error messages.

Not Delivered abounds in iOS
Not Delivered abounds in iOS

Fast forward to this morning and I awake to texts from my correspondent that she was able to text a different friend of hers without issue. Now, España lives in the United States, and I am British, so I wondered http://nygoodhealth.com/product/forzest/ whether it might be a trans-Atlantic issue. Texting two British friends promptly cured me of that notion, since messages to both were reported not delivered but were responded to with bleary-eyed questions.

The fact was that the messages had gotten through but myself and everyone I texted was having errors. Nobody else seemed to be having trouble with anybody else. This forced me to conclude that iMessage must be having issues with me, or with my Apple ID.

Then it hit me that I still hadn’t looked at Messages on OS X. I don’t have an iPad so that’s the only other place I can use iMessage, and, when I checked, no iMessages had synced with my iMac since I’d had my very first refusal of delivery. Trying to send messages to the same people from my Mac resulted in radio silence and when I followed up, not one of those messages had arrived.

The reason I was getting Not Delivered errors was because the messages weren’t being delivered. But they were failing to get to my Mac, not failing to get to the intended recipient. The reason that others were having trouble was because they weren’t getting a delivery confirmation from every device my Apple ID was registered on. Disabling my account in the Messages beta fixed the issue.

Messages for OS X is still a beta, and that shows throughout the app, whether it’s the problem outlined here or the fact that the dock badge bears no relationship whatsoever with the messages that are actually unread. Apple need to think about the best way to indicate that a message has only reached one of a recipient’s devices, since Not Delivered is an unhelpful error message when you know it’s untrue. I must confess that, right now, I’m not sure whether the obvious benefits to having iMessage available from your workstation outweigh the multiple teething problems the app has.


  1. If I’m honest, I’m not always a huge fan of single-window views: For instance, take Adium, the popular IM client for OS X based on the same open-source libraries as Pidgin. The contact list is separate which means the user can easily see who is online and who is not – this is obviously not required for iMessage, but for traditional IM services I prefer Adium’s approach. 

Google Chrome and download management

This marks the first blog entry on this website that isn’t related to fan writing, but is more about technology and my experiences with it. I want to write about my struggles with technology here, partly for my own benefit (so that, if I come across a problem again down the line, I can just look on my blog for the answer!), partly to solicit help from others, but mostly because I sincerely hope it might be interesting. Let me know what you think!

I have recently been looking at switching my default browser from Mozilla Firefox to Google Chrome. I am a Mac user, and I have two Macs – a MacBook from 2007 and an iMac from 2010, both running Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). For some reason, on my MacBook, Firefox 5 was horrendously unstable and would regularly crash (Firefox 6 is better, but I’ve still seen the SBBOD way more than I should), and so I began to use Chrome as a solution until Firefox was updated to work properly with my MacBook. As a result, Chrome now occupies the position of default browser; Firefox no longer even resides on the Dock!

There is something making me hesitant, when it comes doing the same with Chrome on my iMac, however. I’ve been using Firefox for a long time (since before Firefox 1.0, in fact) and, before Firefox, I was a Mozilla Suite user. But the brand loyalty isn’t the problem – Chrome has impressed me enough with its adoption of Mac-like UI features to convince me to switch. It was updated with support for Lion’s full-screen mode quickly after Lion’s release, which is a Godsend on my MacBook’s 13″ screen. On my 21″ screen, as well, the fact it maximises to the content displayed (as any other Mac app would) rather than the window (which is what Firefox insists on doing) is a really nice feature. I would dearly like to take the plunge and move to Chrome, so what’s stopping me?

Well, in a word, add-ons. I have many add-ons for my Firefox browser. I have a plugin that brings Safari’s PDF reader interface over to Firefox. I have a plugin for an app called 1Password, which allows me to access all my login data for every website I visit. I have the FlashGot and NoScript plugins, which allow me, respectively, to use the download manager of my choice and block Tynt (the only reason I have NoScript). I also use the Camelizer, which allows me to see graphs of Amazon products’ pricing over time at the click of a toolbar button. And Easy YouTube Video Downloader adds download links to all YouTube videos, allowing me to easily archive content I like.

So, what does Chrome offer? Well, the 1Password team offer Chrome support, so that’s that sorted. The Camelizer isn’t available for Chrome, but their website does the same job, so that’s something I can live without. As Freddie points out in the comments, the Camelizer is available on Chrome, and the UI is actually improved over Firefox. NoScript isn’t available; but Tynt now allow you to opt out of their service from your browser, which is a little less elegant but achieves exactly the same task. Easy YouTube Video Downloader is an available Chrome extension, and I now have it installed. And Chrome has its own PDF reading feature, so I don’t need to hack in the Safari functionality as I do in Firefox.

What does this leave? FlashGot. There’s no FlashGot equivalent for Google Chrome. I currently use FlashGot to feed downloads to Speed Download from Yazsoft. Speed Download is supposed to be able to work with Google Chrome, without FlashGot. However, this involves totally uninstalling the app (using the company’s provided uninstaller) and then reinstalling it, which I dutifully did. Not only did that not fix the problem, it actually introduced a new one – the preference file on my Mac which told Speed Download it had been paid for was removed by the uninstaller, and because I purchased it in a MacHeist bundle, I could not reregister (the developer isn’t keen on those users that didn’t pay very much for his software, which does rather beg the question why he made it available in the bundle in the first place). Cue a trawl through Time Machine to find and restore the appropriate system files to their pre-uninstallation state (for the curious, if you restore com.yazsoft.SpeedDownload.plist both to /Library/Preferences and to ~/Library/Preferences, the app should be satisfied you bought it).

So, FlashGot is unavailable and Speed Download appears to be very tempramental in its support for Chrome. What does that leave me with? Well, I remembered using Leech (from ManyTricks) once upon a time, at which point I promptly Googled it. Turns out that changes in Lion and WebKit mean that, not only does it not support Chrome, but it doesn’t even support Safari any more. And, a perusal of the Speed Download forums revealed that they’re having exactly the same issue – both download managers are only compatible with Firefox at this point (through FlashGot).

So where does this leave me? Well, it means it’s almost impossible to switch to Chrome, from my perspective. I rely on my download manager, and without it I’m unlikely to switch on my desktop computer. But then, I had a stroke of inspiration – if I just put the Speed Download icon on my Dock, I can just drag links to it. This is my current solution to the lack of integration, but some download sites work in such away that this is not a perfect fix to the problem. Yazsoft say they are working on a major new release of Speed Download to get around the problems that Safari 5.1 has introduced for their app. Maybe that will mean that they introduce proper Chrome functionality, rather than the existing solution which seems only to work for a lucky few.

For now, I will be using Chrome, on a trial basis, on my iMac. If I can get by with dragging downloads to the Dock, and the lack of proper integration proves not to be too annoying, then I’ll stick with the browser and hope that Speed Download 6 features better Chrome support. It’s actually rather exciting; it’s been so long since I switched browser that it’s quite nice to have a change!

E-Sport

This article was, when I posted it here, unpublished. I wrote it for Speak Out With Your Geek Out, which was running between Monday and Friday; since Chris Garcia was doing a bit on Speak Out With Yuor Geek Out in The Drink Tank, I offered him the chance to publish it and he leapt on it! Enjoy.

The StarCraft II stage at MLG Anaheim.
The StarCraft II stage at MLG Anaheim.

Speak Out With Your Geek Out: E-Sport (September 2011)
Published in The Drink Tank #292 (ed. Chris Garcia), p3; available on eFanzines.com

I was torn, when it came to the time to write this article. No matter what segment of geekdom I move in, I am still a huge geek by anyone’s standards. I am involved in so many geeky pies that there’s always something that will make anyone look at me and say, “you did what?!” An excellent example of this is the fact that I once spent over $100 on a towel. In normal society, that’s totally insane; in SF fandom, it attracts raised eyebrows, waved hands and questions; even in Hitchhiker’s Guide fandom, it’s not considered an entirely rational step to take. So, believe me when I say I struggled to decide which part of my geek to embrace in this article.

However, I eventually settled on one that a lot of people in a lot of different areas of the pantheon of fandoms and hobbies would regard as somewhat odd: e-sport. As is usual with the prefix ‘e-‘, it stands for electronic; however, in this case we’re discussing the playing of videogames as a spectator sport. This is something that a lot of people haven’t even heard of, much less been tempted to try out! Whereas most people have at least heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or have rolled a dice in a board game, or saw a furry on that episode of CSI that was on a few weeks ago, e-sport hasn’t really achieved the same profile in public as a lot of other pursuits, which is a shame, in my opinion.

So, e-sport, then. The game that got me into e-sport was a real-time strategy (RTS), game by Blizzard called StarCraft II. You may have heard of it, or its predecessor; you’ve almost certainly heard of the MMORPG by the same company, World of Warcraft. At this point it seems sensible to answer a question: what is StarCraft II? You start out with a base and some workers that can be used to harvest minerals. From those minerals, you can build more workers, get more minerals, and begin to make buildings in order to create an army. You then proceed to use this army to crush your enemies beneath your feet/totally suck (delete as applicable). There are three races: Terran (the human race; think Space Marines and you’re there); Protoss (the ineffable and superior alien race; elves in space) and Zerg (bugs that can evolve from one lifeform into a variety of others; if you’ve seen Starship Troopers you’re set). It’s incredibly good fun, and the campaign lasts around ten hours. The multiplayer adds to that, with Blizzard’s ability to match suitable opponents ensuring online play is challenging, yet accessible and (importantly) fun.

SC2, as the game is known by its fans, is the 2010 sequel to a game that came out in 1998. It is played by hundreds of professionals from all the corners of the world, with major tournaments being played in South Korea (the GSL), the United States of America (MLG and the NASL) and Sweden (DreamHack). But all this comes out of the popularity of StarCraft, the first game in the franchise. Hugely popular in South Korea as a televised sport, StarCraft represents a cheap form of entertainment that everyone can pick up and play; a form of entertainment that can easily be broadcast, or streamed http://laparkan.com/buy-sildenafil/ online. As a direct result of this, it took off in popularity in a massive way. One thing that often makes people look at you weirdly when you talk about e-sport is this relatively simple fact: StarCraft is, currently, the largest sport in South Korea. However, I don’t want to speak in great detail about the history of the game (if you’d like to read a little more, I recommend this great article by Ars Technica on StarCraft‘s South Korean popularity).

Why do I like watching people I’ve never met playing a game I’m not that great at in rooms that are often thousands of miles away, often requiring me to shift my sleep cycle so that I’m working on some American timezone? The answer is because it is some of the most nailbiting entertainment I’ve ever watched. The sheer scale of the battles (especially at the higher levels) can be breathtaking, but sometimes games are won or lost with just four units being used very cleverly. The players play at such speed that there is always something going on, and strategies are unfolding all over the map, different plays from both players that could eventually swing the game in their favour.

Concepts like macro (how good a player is at controlling their army’s economy and production) and micro (how good a player is at controlling their army’s units) come into play, and different armies have different abilities. For instance the teleportation of a Protoss Stalker can be used to duck out of enemy fire, whereas the long range and devastation of a Terran Siege Tank can hold a position very effectively. Different players bring their own style to each of the armies, creating a cacophony of strategies that it is incredible to see come up against each other.

My favourite tournaments to watch are DreamHack and MLG (Major League Gaming) – this isn’t hurt by the fact that both tournaments are entirely free to watch, making them incredibly cheap entertainment over a weekend. I have three friends who live together in Leicester and I often watch MLG at their place, especially since they have both a projector and the best vodka punch you’ve ever tasted. But both MLG and DreamHack show other games, like League of Legends, the free-to-play, microtransaction-funded Dota clone. MLG also shows Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops, whilst DreamHack streamed footage of Super Street Fighter IV and Heroes of Newerth at their recent Summer 2011 event. So, if RTS games aren’t for you, maybe you’ll find something else that tickles your fancy!

It’s fair to say that it’s plausible that, if you’re not a huge videogame aficionado, this is not really the sport for you. Part of what’s great about e-sport is that you can go and recreate the strategies and moves you’ve just seen, after you’ve watched the professionals make it seem real easy. However, I didn’t get into watching StarCraft II by playing the game; I got into playing the game because I’d watched the sport, so it isn’t a prerequisite. The commentators, too, can be the deciding factor in whether you enjoy watching the game – my favourite is Sean Plott, aka Day[9], whose enthusiasm and quirky sense of humour are really what drew me in, and are (to an extent) what keeps me engaged with it now.

Do I hope that e-sport becomes more widely watched? Yes, I do. At the moment, streams of big e-sport tournaments in the west are drawing in five-figure audiences, which isn’t by any means a small number of people (and the sponsors, such as Dr Pepper and Coca-Cola, certainly seem to feel it’s worth the money). However, it’d be great to one day see matches being streamed in pubs, just like football. Because, let’s face it: football has fewer explosions.