Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » May 2004 » The Greymatter experience....

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05/20/2004: The Greymatter experience....

Relative to a mini-rant on Blogger appearing below, a regular reader inquired in comments as to when I was going to post about my experiences with Greymatter. To be honest, the thought hadn't crossed my mind, mostly because I'm not much into meta-blogging, but it's a legitimate request. I don't know that there's much to say, but I can mention a few things for those interested in moving to Greymatter.

Installation is pretty easy. Basically you download the installation files in compressed form (either ZIP file (if your home computer is a Windows box) or tarball (if your home computer is a *nix box)). Once decompressed on your home computer, you have to check the pointers in four script files to make sure that the first lines point to the correct Perl directory for your Web server (the default pointers provided in the files you download may not be correct for your system). Then you upload the installation files via ASCII mode FTP to the appropriate locations in your Web server directory structure (generally the cgi-bin directory for the script and library files, the root of the main Web server directory for the main blog page); the only exception to this is if you want to use support for graphical emoticons. If so, the emoticon pictures are .gif files and need to be uploaded via BINARY mode FTP.

Once everything is uploaded, you have to make sure that the cgi-bin directory and the Greymatter files within it and the main blog page have the appropriate permissions set on them. If all goes well, then just enter the URL to the main Greymatter script file into a web browser, and Bob's your uncle.

If things don't work right, it's most likely one of two problems. First (and judging from the "Help me!" posts on Greymatter Forums, most commonly) one has to make sure that one FTPs the script files in ASCII mode; if one FTPs them in BINARY mode then the scripts won't run. The second issue tends to be file and directory permissions; if the permissions on the cgi-bin directory and on the four critical Greymatter script files aren't correctly set Greymatter will gag once you try to run it. Unfortunately, that's what bit me in the butt and kept me from successfully running Greymatter for about 16 hours or so (I had to dance around the issue with my hosting company until one of the tech support droids casually mentioned in passing that CGI scripts wouldn't work if the directory permissions on the cgi-bin directory weren't set correctly. Lo and behold, when I checked them, they weren't. Silly me; I'd never touched the permissions on cgi-bin at all, and I naively assumed that they'd be set correctly from the get-go (since my hosting company does provide a number of "ready to run" CGI scripts, and you'd think that some folks would want to run them). That assumption wasn't only naive, but wrong. Once I reset the directory permissions everything worked like a charm.

Once one has Greymatter up and running, there's still a little tweaking that has to be done to the Greymatter configuration, but happily that's done via the Greymatter GUI, and the installation instructions (which are available online as well as provided in the Greymatter distribution) are pretty clear and easy to follow. Once that's done, you create your author account (or accounts, if it's a group blog), and you're in business.

The Greymatter GUI is pretty intuitive for the most part, and I have no complaints with it (it seems a bit "rougher" than the original Blogger interface, but not intolerably so). The main downside for someone moving from Blogger to Greymatter is that the way you manage page templates is quite a bit more confusing at first than the Blogger templates. Another significant downside is that there are many, many fewer pre-made templates for use with Greymatter. I was lucky to find a template that was suitable and that I liked. Mind you, someone who is much more familiar with CSS than I am (I can spell "CSS" correctly two out of three times, and I can make basic changes to CSS code that someone has already written) can probably easily create quite fancy Greymatter templates; unfortunately I'm not that skilled. Yet.

That's pretty much a core dump of everything I learned in the process. Unfortunately, I've never set up Movable Type or another such blog management program, so I don't know how the level of geek proficiency required to set up a Greymatter blog compares with the level of geek proficiency required to set up another blog management package. I may be mistaken, but my research into Movable Type led me to believe that Movable Type required a database program like MySQL in order to work correctly (at the very least, in order to allow comments), and my host would have charged me extra for setting up my hosting account to allow for MySQL support. Greymatter has the advantages of being fairly easy to set up and configure, and doesn't require any database support.

Len on 05.20.04 @ 08:02 PM CST


Replies: 3 comments

on Friday, May 21st, 2004 at 3:09 AM CST, mike hollihan said

That sounds an awful lot like the MT installation. Almost exactly, except that MT requires MySQL, of course. The install text file for MT does mention setting permissions and shows you what they should be. For some reason, I had a hella time getting permissions to stick, and had to get my domain host to set them for me. Go figure.

The WordPress I'm looking at now also requires MySQL, but uses PHP instead of Perl. Fewer static files (ie. HTML) but its more processor intensive for the hosting company. Lots of WP templates, and some pretty ones at that. I've found some 3-column templates, which are apparently tough to do in CSS and require much hacking of code and hoping for the best, but I may just chicken out and use a small TABLE tag. We'll see....

Thanks for the walk-through, Len.

on Friday, May 21st, 2004 at 9:56 AM CST, Len Cleavelin said

My pleasure.

Interesting that WordPress uses PHP; I'm using PHP sporadically for some projects at work, and that would give me some ability to hack WordPress (much more ability than I'd have to hack Greymatter). Is WordPress an open source project, though? There'd be an issue to what extent the license allows you to hack it. Greymatter is licensed under the GPL (IIRC) so as long as I'd give back any hacks to the Greymatter community I'm free to do with it as I will.

Assuming, of course, that I can get past the small problem that the extent of my Perl programming skills right now is, basically, that I can spell "Perl" right approximately 9 out of every 10 attempts....

The great irony of my Blogger migration odyssey is that, given that my professional training is as a database administrator one of my reasons for not going the Movable Type route is that I wanted to avoid MySQL, though the issue there is the marginal cost of getting MySQL support from the hosting company and not any intrinsic fear of working with it.

on Friday, May 21st, 2004 at 2:42 PM CST, mike hollihan said

I had to upgrade plans to cover the traffic bandwidth, and getting three MySQL databases was part of the upgrade, so it was fine. Not too expensive either: $120 a year or so. Hosting Matters rocks!

WP is, IIRC, Open Source as they make a huge deal about the community they have developed. Definitely go check it out.

I'm still of two minds on MT. Version 2.661 is what I'm experimenting with and it will apparently be the last free version of that development tree. All work now will be on the new, restricted 3.0 branch. But that doesn't mean you can't keep using 2.661 for quite a while. And now that I'm on Blogcritics, who also use that version, it would be nice to only have to learn one program to cover both. On the other hand, MT2.661 is a dead end and at some point it will conflict with something somewhere and that's the end of that. Might be better to go ahead and switch now.


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