Wednesday, 14 September 2011

08:35 – I’m really getting disgusted with WordPress. It’s a dog of an application: slow, kludgy, and unstable. I wish I’d never started using it.

The export utility is particularly annoying. It claims to back up “All content This will contain all of your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, terms, navigation menus and custom posts.” Well, perhaps it does, but only if you don’t consider images content. I noticed this some weeks ago, the first time I added an image to a post. Comparing the size of the backup file from the previous day, it was obvious that the export function hadn’t backed up the image I just added.

And then there’s the fact that the process aborts frequently. To initiate an export, one goes to the Tools menu and chooses Export. When you click the Download Export File, WordPress is supposed to create a zipped file of all content and then initiate a download to your browser. What actually happens about half the time is that the zip process fails with a file-not-found error. Clicking Retry works about one time in ten. The rest of the time I have to go back and click the Download Export File again, which involves waiting for a minute or so for the file to be created. But even when that happens, the problems aren’t over. About three times in four, the download fails and the process has to be restarted from the beginning. Yesterday, it took me literally ten tries and probably half an hour of my time to finally get the file downloaded to my local drive.

After that experience, I decided just to connect directly to the server and transfer the raw files down to my hard drive. Unfortunately, I can’t find my content. I started at the top-level directory, which has as a subdirectory. That subdirectory contains a subdirectory called journal, which in turn contains a subdirectory called wp-content, along with wp-admin, wp-includes, and several files. I assumed that my WordPress content would be in the wp-content subdirectory, but if it is I can’t find it.

I wonder if my service provider, Dreamhost, has another blogging app that offers a one-click install, but I really don’t have time to go looking for something else. I’m pissed that they’d even offer this piece of shit. It’s not ready for prime-time. I suspect that what WordPress really wants is for users to sign up for their hosted service and either pay WordPress directly or let them run ads on the hosted blog. I’m not willing to do either.

So I guess I’ll keep running WordPress for now. But it does make me seriously consider just abandoning this journal and using the time I’m now spending on it for more productive tasks. Hell, I might as well create an account on Facebook as keep using this POS app. Or perhaps I’ll return to the way I used to do things: a static journal page that incorporates email comments I receive from readers.

Meanwhile, Greece is coming apart at the seams, not just economically but socially. Remember that as recently as the mid-70’s Greece was still involved in a hot civil war, and it won’t take much more to reignite that conflict. The media has described the confrontations that have already occurred as “protests”, but in fact they’ve been full-blown riots. Only our politically-correct media could describe people overturning cars and throwing Molotov cocktails as “protesters”. But Greece has so far seen only a tiny fraction of the pain that it will inevitably suffer when it is abandoned by the EU and defaults. There will be blood in the streets, literally.

And then there’s Italy, which just had a bond auction with disastrously bad bid-to-cover ratios and catastrophic yields. Italy is now grasping at straws, with the latest straw being the hope that China will bail out Italy by purchasing mountains of worthless Italian debt. But China has already made clear that it has no intention of doing that. What China intends to do is buy Italy, or at least the parts that are still worth buying. What money China decides to invest in Italy will be in the form of equities purchases, not debt purchases. To the extent that China buys any Italian debt, it will be a strategic move, in return for the EU granting China full trading status with the EU.

Meanwhile, the FANG nations are sitting on the sidelines watching all of this take place and no doubt wondering why they ever believed it was a good idea to tie themselves economically to the profligate, irresponsible southern-tier nations. And the UK is just happy that it was wise enough to refuse to join the eurozone in the first place, and considering what concessions it should demand in return for supporting the EU treaty changes that are currently being discussed. If the UK has any sense, it will distance itself as far as possible from the EU, negotiating common market status for itself with regard to the EU, but no financial or regulatory ties.

By definition, it’s difficult to predict what will happen in a disorderly Greek bankruptcy. Right now, Greece awaits the decision of the troika that will determine if Greece receives the next tranche of the current bailout. If that decision goes against Greece–which it should based on the facts but may not based on the politics–Greece no longer has anything to lose, and I would expect it to default within days of the decision. If the next tranche is approved, I would expect Greece to wait until it has its hands on that money and then default in short order.

The immediate effects of a Greek default will be catastrophic for Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, all of which will topple quickly into formal default as their banks fail. France and Belgium won’t be far behind, immediately losing access to capital markets, leaving only the FANG nations standing. Those nations will be badly hurt, and will have little option but to re-establish their own local currencies. The euro will plummet through parity with the US dollar, and eventually settle at some small fraction of its current value. Investors in euro-denominated instruments will be wiped out.

Fortunately, the US and UK have limited exposure to euro sovereign and bank debt, but that doesn’t mean we’ll not be badly hurt. Our own industries will be hammered coming and going. Exports from the US and UK to the eurozone will fall off a cliff, as eurozone countries will no longer be able to afford US and UK products. And sales by US and UK companies to their local markets will also suffer as a flood of cheap eurozone products floods those local markets.

And the real bitch is that no one can do anything to stop all this from happening. As Milton Friedman and others warned at the time, this collapse was inevitable because the euro itself had and has a fatal design flaw. The next few years are going to be interesting times in the sense of that old Chinese curse.

13:33 – Hmmm. As I was walking Colin a few minutes ago, I was surprised to see what looked like a full-blown race car parked at the curb a few houses down the street.

As we got closer, I realized that it wasn’t really a CanAm race car, but a facsimile. I checked it out on Google when we got home, and it’s apparently a one-off built by Dick Bear around a Honda two-liter four-cylinder engine as a facsimile of the McLaren M8B. It looks a bit worse for wear now compared to the image, but it still looks like a fun car to drive on nice days. It’s street-legal, as confirmed by its North Carolina license plate, MCBEAREN.

19 thoughts on “Wednesday, 14 September 2011”

  1. I must be really dense, but I still don’t see why a Greek default within the Euro-zone ought to produce chaos. This is really no different from a large (ok, huge) company going bankrupt. Lots of paychecks will stop, lots of pensions will become worthless, the government will re-organize, re-hire essential employees, and essential services will continue.

    Ok, the latter assumes that the people in charge of the government are not actively evil. Perhaps that is the fatal flaw?

    p.s. Regarding WordPress: I wonder if you have a corrupted installation? Entering this comment, the whole web-page crashed – I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.

  2. The problem is that a Greek bankruptcy immediately exposes the rot in the European banking system. All of the eurozone nations are heavily exposed to Greek debt, both sovereign and bank. They carry that debt as assets on their balance sheets, at face value, when it fact it’s worth little or nothing.

    So, a bank that has, say, €1 billion in Greek bonds is counting that as a €1 billion asset against its liabilities, when in fact that asset has no market value. (The market is not buying Greek debt, nor Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, or Italian.) If you reduce the assets of European banks by the value of just their Greek debt, those banks are bankrupt. If you factor in the actual market value of the debt held by those banks in other southern-tier sovereign bonds, the situation is disastrous.

    When Greece defaults, those banks will be required to write off their Greek debt, which destroys their balance sheets and puts them into bankruptcy. And when Greece defaults, the market will immediately focus on the next weaker country, AKA Italy. Italy already owes something like $3 trillion dollars, with hundreds of billions needing to be rolled over in the relatively near future. There won’t be any buyers for that debt, which means Italy can’t pay off current bondholders, which means Italy defaults, which means the euro collapses.

  3. I used the one-click install for WordPress, which Dreamhost claimed worked properly. Since then, I’ve used the automatic update process to install new versions of WordPress, which WordPress claims installed properly. I’m pretty sure the problem lies with WordPress rather than Dreamhost, because I’ve heard from many other people who use WordPress on other hosting services that have had similar problems. As I said, I think WP is a POS product.

  4. During my last post, I got a server error. The post still made it but the journal wouldn’t reload right away. That never happened on the *board*.

  5. Well, I don’t mind the new look, but I DO prefer the old boards!

    The difference between a company and a government defaulting should be obvious and profound.

  6. I have to agree about WordPress. It’s ugly and works badly. And it makes unnecessary usage of PHP for content that’s actually static…

  7. Bob, I think you’ll find your content is stored in a MySQL database. I have dabbled with WordPress at a different hosting service and that service has a control panel set up so you can download a backup of the database.

    As far as the other WordPress issues you describe, I think some of that is going to be because it uses a MySQL database. If we were still using the old Daynotes forum, I’d suspect we might see similar issues there. I’d also suggest the reason we didn’t see more problems with the forums when Greg and Brian were hosting is that their server had a much lower load than the one we’re on now.

    Moving to a different blog hosting platform with everything in a MySQL database would probably involve similar issues.

  8. It is true that all WordPress content is stored in a database (usually MySQL for most hosting companies). The WP code plus themes plus any add-in code is stored in the wp-* folders (in your case, in your ‘journal’ folder). Storing content in a database is common to Content Management Systems, including alternatives to WordPress.

    For all of the many WP sites I manage, I use the excellent “WordPress Database Backup” by Austin Matzko, which automatically emails me a compressed database backup.

    So my backup process is to occasionally download the wp* folders, plus a daily automatic database backup using that plugin. The folder download will include any pictures, etc, that are in your posts. There are other plugins to compress/download/email non-database files, but I don’t use them.

    There would be no change in your blog if you moved to a platform. It’s the same code, the same databases, etc. Response time for viewing pages may be related to your hosting service’s shared server load.

    But I have found, with all of the WP sites I manage (including Dr. Pournelle’s) that WP is a very stable environment, very flexible (dependent on the theme you choose – I use the Atahualpa theme), and response time is good. A few selected plug-ins make things easier (like the database backup program).


  9. Thanks! I just installed that plugin and did a manual backup. The resulting file was only 1 MB in .gz compressed form, but viewing that showed me a 7 MB sql database file. Now I’m wondering what the standard WP Export function covers, since the file it produced a short while ago is 7 MB.

    I really miss being on zidane with Greg and Brian taking care of things. I’m thankful that they didn’t shut down zidane years earlier than they did. As it was, I had about 10 years of worry-free hosting from them.

  10. The export feature of WP converts it to a ‘portable’ XML format if I remember correctly. I stopped using wordpress a while back, it was a waste of resources for something that is 95% static. Part of your issue may also be how they have the hosting setup — if you are using shared resources there are bound to be times when someone else is using most of the CPU cycles.

    I switched over to a static blogging system named Pelican ( where you write your posts in ReStructuredText, generate html from that using Pelican and then upload the results to the host. I’m actually using Amazon S3 and CloudFront to host my blog for about $0.50 a month in storage and transfer fees.

    I much prefer the style of create and push vs. create in the cloud and hope you can pull a real backup of the data.

  11. I sure won’t complain if WordPress goes away. As a user, reading and keeping up is a bloody mess. With the static pages, I had two tabs open: one for the journal; and one for the forum comments. Throughout the day, I just hit refresh and anything below where I was, was new content. Now, I have to devote one whole window with a mess of tabs opened for each day of the week, and I have to refresh them all to see new content. What is worse, is that the refresh returns me to the top of the page (or the beginning of comments) so I have to manually scroll down each tab and waste a lot of time remembering what I had read or not read.

    I suppose WordPress has allowed a lot more people to do blogs, but it is NOT user (reader) friendly in any sense of the word. The radio/video industry blogs I track, still use a system very like the old boards–one page for news entries, and another for comments. Ever only 2 pages to refresh, instead of 8 separate ones by the end of the week.

  12. The WP Export does create an XML file; the intent is for that format to allow moving content to a different platform. WP Import reads XML files.

    That doesn’t take care of code (PHP) files, though, which is why a backup of the wp* folders is useful. Although that is available, I don’t always do a backup of the wp* folders, except for any customized content I might have (which is in separate php files, so that upgrades to the core php code don’t affect my custom code). I maintain a hard-copy list of plug-ins in the rare case of a whole site rebuild.

    There was one site that had problems with some malicious code inserted due to a bad plug-in. I uninstalled and removed the plugin, then did a full refresh of the WP code (via the dashboard’s ‘install update again’ button). That fixed that problem, and since the site content (along with theme and plugin settings) are in the database, the site was ‘cured’. If needed, I could have restored the entire database from my automatic backups with minor effort.

    As for comments about user/reader friendliness, I think that most people are used to the way that WP presents blog-type information. On Dr. Pournelle’s site, there was some noise about wanting the ‘old’ format (first in, first out, weekly views), so I created some special pages for those people. But an analysis of visitor logs indicates that under 5% of his readers use those specially formatted pages.

    WP is not for a news-based site; there are other programs that are more news-oriented (Drupal, for one). That requires a lot more customization, though.

    WP is also not well-built for extended comment/discussion-oriented sites. There are better solutions for those (PHPBB, for one).

    Right tool for the job, and all that.

  13. Off topic. I bought a new SanDisk Cruzer flash drive from Walmart a couple days ago, and just plugged it in. I am pretty disappointed, because it had an autorun file on it and immediately started doing stuff to the computer. I managed to kill it pretty quickly; I thought I had things set up so nothing would ever autorun on this computer, but I guess SanDisk has found a way around that.

    Then the second disappointment is that it has a large (and I mean large) glowing LED embedded in it, which constantly cycles on and off, like the surging red marker lights on radio and TV towers. SanDisk knows about this obnoxiously distracting LED problem, because they have a FAQ on their site that proclaims it is designed that way, and there is no way to shut the LED off. Many people believe the glowing means that it is using computer resources, but SanDisk says it is the indication that the device is actually idle. Due to the arrangement of the USB ports on my laptop, it points directly at me.

    It was an extremely good price–$12 for 8gb–but I am thinking about returning it, nonetheless. There is nothing a manufacturer hates more than having merchandise returned to Walmart, because Walmart tracks the returns and gives companies lots of grief for it. That is why you often see those warnings on products: “DO NOT RETURN THIS ITEM TO THE RETAILER. Call us for any post purchase problems.”

    Nope, not gonna do that. Did it a couple times and got nothing but pain from the companies who asked that, so I will take advantage of the friendly Walmart return policy, and let them handle possible recalcitrant companies. Meanwhile, I will run over to Fry’s when I am in Indy later in the week, and buy another Kingston,–which has none of the aforementioned problems.

  14. Those USB flash drives I have which include LEDs turn them off when I do an “eject”. I’ve become trained to expect it, and appreciate the confirmation that it is safe to remove it. Because I’ve been conditioned when I detach a drive without this features I am always mentally crossing my fingers.

  15. Someone recently gave me a round dozen 8GB Sandisk drives. The led is annoying. There’s some sort of security partition and a bit of some silly adware, but, at least on vista, nothing doing an autorun.

  16. Chuck Norris^H^H^H^H^H^HWaggoner wrote:

    “Nope, not gonna do that. Did it a couple times and got nothing but pain from the companies who asked that, so I will take advantage of the friendly Walmart return policy, and let them handle possible recalcitrant companies. Meanwhile, I will run over to Fry’s when I am in Indy later in the week, and buy another Kingston,–which has none of the aforementioned problems.”

    Good on you, I really wish people would do this more often, it sends a signal to companies where it hurts most.

  17. Like Chuck I will not run out and kill myself if WordPress was to go away and the old forum front end came back. Whatever works for Bob and causes the least hassle would be good, and I would hate to see it go away completely. Despite him being a cranky old meany who wants to blow away Santa Claus and thinks the Flying Spaghetti Monster will save him from the clutches of Lucifer.

  18. Wow, you’re back. I though you’d been abducted by aliens (or atheists).

    Actually, I think Bob’ll make it.

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