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Blogging on the Edge: Blogging NOT From My Computer

Recently, some trauma in the drama in my life had me staying with family for a few days, separated from my best friend: my laptop. They had two computers connected with DSL to the net, and I had time to get some work done while waiting for the dust to settle, so I figured this would be a non-event.


I was blogging on the edge, on foreign soil without a map nor net. Literally.

There is much about my blogging experience and life that I am realizing I’ve taken for granted. Firefox Internet Browser is one of those things much taken for granted. The ease of tabbed browsing, and having the power of the many add-ons/extensions I use to make my blogging a faster and more efficient, as well as richer, experience, are gone, stuck in my computer, along side my luggage with all my clothes, inaccessible.

First on the list of things to do when stuck away from your stuff in an emergency is to go to WalMart to buy underwear and much needed items. Sure wish access to my Internet toys and joys were that easy.

The first computer I used in the house had just installed Internet Explorer 7, wanting to be first on the block with the updated version. It took six tries to open IE before it stopped crashing when loading. Even then, I’m not sure what finally fixed it, but the fix was temporary because two hours later, it crashed again.

Blogging with IE is still a nightmare. While the tab thing was okay, it just wasn’t as efficient and easy to use with center clicking on links to open a tab as Firefox. Plus, there was the lack of the tools and add-ons for Firefox that aren’t available for IE, and I didn’t have time to go hunting for them if they were.

Finally, my nephew told me he had installed Firefox but only used it to test web page designs since he didn’t know anything about it. It was on his profile, not his mother’s, so I had to do the profile dance. Which also meant that I no longer had easy access to a couple of articles I’d just whipped up as they were in his mother’s profile. Accessing them meant jumping around the hard drives to find them and make sure they were in the shared user documents so I could access them no matter which profile I was using. By the end of the second day, I was going back and forth between three different profiles to access specific programs installed “only” to those profiles. What a mess!

I’d work on a project, then step away from the computer for a moment and return to find a family member playing solitaire on their profile. I’d kick them off and then forget whose profile I’d just been working with. Sigh.

The family had never heard of feed readers, so finally in desperation, I introduced Firefox Sage to my nephew, but I still didn’t have links to all of the sites I’m used to monitoring. Nor the time to go hunting and adding them to the reader. I was at least able to check on a few news sites. It was a stunner to realize that I was used to checking 50 or more sites a day regularly, and without their access, I felt lost and out of touch.

I use Google’s Personalized Homepage, a tabbed page of site feeds I monitor on various topics like WordPress and Web Development, so I thought I could easily access my Gmail account and that page. Ha! I left behind all my password papers with my laptop and couldn’t remember my Gmail password or user name.

The same went for all my email accounts and website access codes. I noticed that my family history blog had a borked front page with the color of the footer spread across the page after the header. ARGH. It took me twenty tries to finally come up with the right password and user name for that site to fix the little bit of errant code in a post.

I wanted to upload a file to my main site, but while I finally figured out the password and user name for the site’s access, the FTP program he had wouldn’t take them. We struggled for 45 minutes until I finally gave up and used the site’s built-in FTP file manager, a nightmare of bad programming and slow access.

I had no access to my favorites or bookmarks. I had no access to the tagging bookmarklet I use for my tags and signature on every post I write.

I also had no access to easy spell checking in the browser, so I wrote in an ancient version of Microsoft Works. Hasn’t anyone killed that horrid software yet? Yuk! Working with Works added an additional step of performing a search and replace in Notepad to change all the characterized quote marks and apostrophes into text versions for each article. The fun never ended.

Everything was done manually, without all the bells and whistles I use for my power blogging techniques, including adding posts in the “Related Articles” section at the bottom of most of my articles. This is done manually. I keep a master text file list of all the posts I write, a kind of manual table of contents. This makes it easy to find the posts I add in my Related Articles section. I simply copy and paste the articles title links into the post content area. But without the list, I had to search through my blog and then manually type in every link with a little copy and paste. Tedious technique!

Akismet 1399 comment spamsChecking my blog’s comments, comment spam, and traffic was also not very fun. Akismet’s new paging feature on blogs is a nightmare to use. I found over 500 comment spam waiting for me at the end of the first day, and many pages to click through to check all of them. The multiple page feature is at the top of the page, so after scrolling through a page of comment spam, I’d have to scroll back to the top to hit the link to page 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc. Over and over, up and down. Time consuming and just not fun. The whole process now takes three to five times the time it used to take me to scroll down one page. Still, the placement of the page links is ridiculous and not very user friendly. You scroll down to check and then move to the next page. Right? Why be forced to scroll to the top to move to the next page? Either way, I still have to wait for each page of comment spam to load and that takes a long time.

I keep finding the occasionally good comment stuck between all the penis, drugs, mortgages, and sex comments, but I can’t keep plowing through all these mindless pages of the worst the human race has to offer.

So my apologies to everyone whose comment got caught by Akismet in the past few weeks. I had to change my scanning of comment spam to random page fulls instead of every page. It was overwhelming when there were 1,399 comment spams on one day.

If you never saw your comment appear on my blog, and you still want it there, be sure to write it again, but this time, make sure you are more careful with your words and keep the links down to two or less.

Handling the rest of the blog administration work was less tedious, but I still missed the ease of familiar computer layouts and structures, as well as passwords remembered for me not by me.

There were also the normal hassles of using someone else’s computer: the chair and keyboard in awkward positions and levels, old keyboards, even older mouses with no center button nor scrolling wheel and no thumb buttons, irritating IM popups from their young friends saying inane things, and an environment not very conducive to intellectual thinking, free of distractions. But I was grateful to have a place to sleep and clean underwear while waiting for the world to tilt back into my regularly scheduled programming.

I’ve traveled the world and used public Internet access points in countries and towns whose names I could barely pronounce, and managed to survive. But traveling the past few years, a laptop has rarely left my side, glued to my hip, dependent upon WIFI signals with open access. Being without my faithful computer servant was more devastating than I should admit. Everything took five times longer, and I had to really wrack my head to remember how to do things the old fashioned way.

And yes, I kissed my laptop when I finally got back to it. I will definitely complain a little less about it now that I have met the alternative.

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  1. Posted November 6, 2006 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    Aha…ever since my laptop went bust. I carry a portable Firefox in my thumbdrive with me everywhere. Since almost everything is tied into my Firefox extensions, Bloglines notifier and Google Browser Sync especially, I got to carry it around with me everywhere, opens on all computers given that they have a USB port I can open it from. Never left without it ever since.

  2. Posted November 6, 2006 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Microsoft Works! OMG. You poor thing.

  3. Posted November 6, 2006 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    I sympathize, but I ended up spending several days at my mother’s. They have two computers and no broadband. The one that’s “easiest” to use is a Windows 98 computer with a lot of stuff on it that cranks for 15 minutes when you turn it on.

    Anyway, the second few days, I brought my laptop and the cable to attach it to my cell phone. It took most of an hour for t-mobile tech support to get my a data plan and they never did get the hookup working, but when I got off the phone I managed to do it, by turning the phone off and then on again.

    So then I was almost on a reasonable system, except that I do most of my work on my desktop, so the laptop wasn’t all that well set up for a lot of what I do. And the connection speed was still pretty slow. And the ergonomics weren’t as good for serious typing as what I have at home.

    But I do have a bit of a solution for the passwords problem. When I set up a password, I put an email in a folder on my home machine. I leave that machine turned on and ssh into it when I need to read mail, but even if I didn’t, I could just copy that folder to the laptop or a USB thingie and get at them that way.

  4. Posted November 6, 2006 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Lorelle – I feel your pain. I, too, installed IE7 and it is horrible. Slow, horrible, and constantly crashes. I am loving Firefox though.

    So, did you get a new laptop or just got yours repaired? I am in the market for a new one and am looking for recommendations.

  5. Posted November 6, 2006 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Edrei, that’s a brilliant idea. Did you/would you write up an explanation on how to get Firefox Mobile and extensions on a flash drive or point me to one?

    Laura: I used to have a server years ago in my office I could connect to from wherever I was but since I have no “home base” any more, this doesn’t work for me. I’m on the road all the time. But I’m thinking about putting my password list on my flash drive, along with Edrei’s idea. That might have saved me.

    Char: There was nothing wrong with my laptop, just my life. My life separated us. 😉

    As for recommendations, buy one that TOTALLY meets your needs. Smaller is not always wiser and bigger is always much heavier. Too much hard drive space, too many USB/Firewire connections, and too much RAM is always better than buying for budget. Don’t buy for budget, buy for beyond what you need NOW because you will need it in six months.

  6. Posted November 6, 2006 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I second the Thumbdrive. has a *LOT* of how-tos on thumbdrives.

    You could also use an iPod (or other music player) as a thumbdrive, but it might be a bit more cumbersome.

    re: new laptops

    Stay away from compaq/hp. UGH. Don’t get a desktop replacement system (ie: 17 inch widescreen monitor etc) as they are not portable at all — they also overheat like crazy. Walk into the store and try out the keyboard before buying. Finding something you like to type on is the biggest factor.

  7. Posted November 6, 2006 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Ack, that sounds terrible. I don’t know what your emergency was, but I hope everything is OK with you and yours now.

  8. Posted November 7, 2006 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Roboform (FF and MSIE and Flock usable) holds your secrets and works on a stick.

  9. Posted November 12, 2006 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Hey Lorelle,

    I’m getting into blogging and preparing myself to do it anywhere… As I go to work, I can’t blog there, so when I get out I go to college, so there I have access to internet. Now, I’m concerned into getting a good online feeds reader (i found one: and using delicious to bookmark everything.. and I’m making a hard effort to use it even in home. Where I used to use firefox for everything…
    But things are getting easier, i guess we can do it…

    Great article. Congrats.

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