Tag Archives: technology

Music is Vast

(NOTE: Some of you already saw this on Facebook. I really wanted to post this here instead, but the server was just going nuts the last few days, so I couldn’t. These kind of thinky thoughts totally belong at the Roadhouse, not on that trashy whore Facebook.)

If you took Intro to Music Tech from me in a previous semester, the class probably started out with my patented “You all suck at music, and will likely end up working at Walmart” speech. While I stand by that speech, and think that it is largely true (especially for you, Brandon), I feel as though it may have set the wrong tone for my class.

Instead, this year, I gave a different speech. Addison Road-ites will notice several recurring themes from my posts here, wrapped up in a tidy 5 minutes diatribe on Music and Technology.

So here it is: my opening speech to the incoming freshmen.

Music is vast. It is so much bigger than you think it is. It covers more things, runs deeper, any grasp you have on it is always too small. It will always be bigger than your experience in it.

Music is vast. I call myself a musician, and in the last 4 months that has meant playing keyboards for a national commercial, writing a modern composition for trumpet, piano, and laptop, conducting a choral recording session for another piece I wrote, playing keyboards live for 100 awesome fans at Hotel Cafe, teaching a younger player how to set a tap-delay for a guitar tone, leading worship, singing backing vocals on a demo, writing two songs for a musical, and playing piano for a bad j-pop album. All of those things are music. That’s just one summer, for one person, and you should all know that I am nowhere near the top of the heap when it comes to this industry. Other people are doing far more work than I am. But all of that is music.

Music is vast. It runs deep. It reaches out and strikes the soul, and the whole body resonates on that pitch. It reminds us, like nothing else can, that we are more than meat and bone, more than dust. We are the breath of God, created in His image, and just as he sang the world into being, we create in imitation of Him. We are the immortal echo of the eternal, living for just a little while in these clay jars, and music reminds us who we are. If you haven’t ever felt that, then I honestly have no idea why you’re here.

Music is vast, and it is shared. Music is the exchange of ideas. Melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, vibe, tone, tension, resolution – music is about the trading back and forth of ideas. And language is, frankly, a very bad tool for exchanging ideas about music. There’s a quote, attributed to Frank Zappa but probably not his, that says, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”

Technology is the ink and paper of music. It is our best tool for exchanging ideas. If you have ideas worth sharing, and again I don’t know why you’re here unless you do, then technology is you best tool for capturing and sharing those ideas.

My goal is not to turn you into geeks and nerds; that will happen on its own. My goal is to turn you into musicians. That means being fluent in the language of music, which is, increasingly, the language of music technology. My goal is to help you learn to use technology so well that it lets you do what you really want to do, which is music. The technology should be transparent, it has to get out of the way, and let you be a musician.

Music is vast. It is broad and it is deep, and it’s way to early in your musical lives to start defining yourself in narrow ways. Don’t say, “I am this, not this” or “I do this, not this”. You have no idea yet who or what you can and will be. Be big! Be curious, be broad, be deep, be soul-ish and magnificent. Everything else in this world will conspire to make you small – don’t be complicit! Resist the urge to define yourself in small ways.

Be a musician. Be vast.

Graphicly Explained

I’ve been on a slow quest to make my lecture slides fit my presentation style better. Moving from content and text heavy slides, where every important definition is typed out, to a style where the slides serve almost as a visual soundtrack to the lecture, emphasizing important ideas with single words, or just a picture.

So, I’m pretty pleased with this slide I built last night, for today’s lecture on transducers. Transducers are a class of objects that convert energy from one format to another. Microphones and speakers are both transducers. To illustrate the idea, I hacked together different images to get this:

My dream is to sometime have a full-on budget where I can hire Corey to build all of my lecture presentations for me (and, of course, dress me), but until then, I’ll muddle through with only my own unerring sense of design and a hefty amount of copyright violation.

Welcome Back!

So, apparently our RSS feed has been down for, well, nobody knows quite how long. A while, anyway. It just kept showing no new posts, and then finally, nothing at all. It’s back up and running now, thanks to some fancy codin’ by an unnamed hero of the masses (named me). To all of our rabid fan (hey Bobby!) who thought we had folded up shop and moved the blog offline to Aly and Ash’s backyard, let me be the first to say …

… Welcome back!

Seth Godin on The Death of the Music Industry

Seth Godin (all-around internet guru guy) wrote an article on things that can be learned, by existing industries, from the slow and agonizing death of the music industry. The quote of the article has to be:

You used to sell plastic and vinyl. Now, you can sell interactivity and souvenirs.

Some of his language is a bit “insider” to the internet marketing world, but you can get past that and still hear what he’s saying. Here’s the article: Music Lessons.

(ht: Matt, the guy who built wordpress)

.mac abuse

I’ve started getting spam comments on this blog from websites hosted by Apple’s .Mac service. This is new to me, so I thought Apple might like to know about it. For a company that prides itself on usability, it was almost impossible to find this page to report the abuse. I finally had to use Google to search apple’s site!

This seems like a pretty expensive way to host spam. $99 for the year, and once you get busted the whole account, plus the credit card you used to open it, go on the “Naughty” list. It must be profitable, I guess, but I wonder how those economics actually work.

spam-licious

We’re under a massive spam attack right now. There have been about 600 spam comments lobbed at this blog since 4AM this morning. They come in floods, 30 or so in about a minute. They’re trying to overwhelm the spam filters, I think. It’s making it difficult to post or comment, because the database has to handle huge chunks of data moving in and out, and the spam filter slows that down quite a bit. It’s not a problem when one or two people are commenting at once, but it is a problem when a spam-bot tries to cram 30 at once down the pipe.

All that to say … I hate spam. I hate that it, apparently, works. I hate that a few nefarious cretins have destroyed email as a useful communications tool, and are now trying to destroy blogging as well.

What I like, however, is akismet. It was built by the same people who designed WordPress (the software that runs Addison Road), and it just plain works at preventing spammy comments. How well? Since I installed it, there have been 200,689 offers for home mortgages and penis pills that none of you got the chance to mock (or click through on, bobby).

An Open Letter to My Productivity

Dear Productivity,

It is with great sadness that I must announce the following statement: As of today, September 25, 2007, I am hereby terminating our long-running relationship.  Today, Halo 3 was released.

Throughout the years, you’ve been there for me countless times. From the 9th Grade history reports that were started 3 hours before they were due, (before the internets!) to the current client who doesn’t mind paying a little extra to have their edit done ahead of schedule. With you by my side, I’ve managed to finish high school, learn all about computers and entertainment technology, and make mix CD’s for my girlfriend. Without you, my car would be on blocks in the front yard. The dishes would pile high. The cat would starve. Through thick an thin, you’ve provided me with the motivation to create, love, prosper, and above all else, survive.

Signed,

Zack
Retarded Videogame Junkie

CC: To my Wedding Video Clients – your wedding really wasn’t that big of a deal, anyway. I can probably mail you a DVD that was shot at the same location, and if you squint, that bride and groom might look familiar. Hopefully, your photographer doesn’t own an XBOX360

CCC: To my Girlfriend – If you feel like you have no choice but to make out with girls, I totally understand.

NBC Dumps iTunes

Booooo! Boooooooooo!

NBC has decided that their new strategy for making money off of their content will be to remove it from the most popular, low-operational-cost, and globally effective distribution network ever built. Yup, according to the New York Times, NBC is pulling its content from the iTunes music store.

NBC on iTunes
This is just an awful idea. I think I’m a pretty typical customer of iTunes content – I’ll buy maybe one or two albums a month, and a few TV episodes a month. Check out the photo I’ve linked to the iTunes NBC page – it lists their 4 most popular shows. Here are the ways iTunes has enhanced my consumer relationship with NBC, and why NBC’s choice to pull their content is an awful idea.

The Office

Discovered it on the BBC, love the NBC version even more, but I’m not home to watch it when it’s regularly scheduled. Instead, I grab episodes online. I only follow one or two shows this way, so it’s cheaper than getting a TIVO.

Heroes

I followed this show on TV, but would occasionally miss an episode. How to get them? iTunes, of course! I jumped online and downloaded the episode the day after it aired.

Scrubs

I liked this show when it first came out, and then it got … what’s the word … stupid. I don’t follow the show at all anymore, but I wanted to watch some of the early episodes again. Rather than waiting for them to roll around on the syndication schedule, I jumped online and got them from iTunes.

30 Rock

This is the real tragedy of NBC’s choice. This show is probably the best new show they’ve developed in the last, let’s say, 39 years. How did I discover this show? They gave away an episode as a free download on iTunes. I downloaded it, loved it, am now a fan. Now, when I happen to be flipping channels and see it on TV, I stop flipping and watch the show. They earned a viewer for their broadcast network because of their use of alternate distribution channels.

Bad Business

The NYTimes article gives one real reason for the decision. Allow me to interpret:

The decision by NBC Universal highlights the escalating tension between Apple and media companies, which are unhappy that Apple will not give them more control over the pricing of songs and videos that are sold on iTunes.

NBC … wants Apple to allow it to bundle videos to increase revenue, the person familiar with the matter said.

means

Remember back when we made you buy an entire CD, with one great song and 12 filler pieces of crap? Oh man, we made so much money with that. Wasn’t that awesome? We think Apple should let us do the same thing with videos! Less consumer choice means more freedom for everyone! And by freedom, I mean money! And by everyone, I mean us!

Apple has shown, by virtue of their success in promoting music, that increasing the choices for consumers is a stronger model for building a distribution channel. People return to points of commerce where they feel empowered and valued. iTunes does that with it’s pricing and non-bundled policies. NBC, apparently, can’t understand that.

The Real Threat

I’m having a really hard time believing that the NBC executives are taking such a short-term view of their relationship with iTunes. The article states that they are limiting their distribution with iTunes out of concern for piracy. They should be concerned about piracy, but not for the reasons they give.

What they seem to not realize is that iTunes is not in competition with Hulu.com, or any other silo solution. The only real competition for iTunes media content is illegal downloads.

This is the brilliance of the iTunes price point, and the reason it has seen such explosive growth: $1.99 per show is exactly the point at which it becomes an easier choice to buy a show from iTunes than to go through the hassle of finding a torrent, loading it into a bit torrent client, waiting for it to download, hoping it’s high quality, and then sitting huddled in the dark hoping the RIAA doesn’t drop a lawsuit on your butt.

If NBC takes away the $1.99 iTunes option, people will not flock back to broadcast TV, they will not go hunt down the show at hulu.com, they will simply download it illegally, for free.

Check out how much of my value as a consumer NBC loses by ending their relationship with iTunes:

  1. The Office: This isn’t a time-sensitive show, so if I can’t get it through iTunes, I’ll wait and download the entire season at The Pirate Bay.
  2. Heroes: If I miss a single episode, I can pop over to isohunt and track it down. Again, the competition for the $1.99 iTunes Media Store is the Free Illegal Downloads Store.
  3. Scrubs: This was always a whim. If I don’t have easy access to previous episodes, I just won’t bother. The alternative to NBC selling me a show for $1.99 is … me doing nothing. Easy.
  4. 30 Rock: if NBC severs ties with iTunes, I don’t even find this show. I never watch a single episode. When it comes on broadcast TV and I’m flipping channels, I flip right past. NBC loses both an online purchaser and a broadcast viewer.

This is an awful, awful business move for NBC. They are alienating themselves from a whole population of potential consumers.

UPDATED: Nov. 25th
Welcome to everyone who has been dropping by from StumbleUpon. Please take a second to check out what we’re doing with Operation Christmas Goat. Turn your holiday shopping into real change for needy families in developing countries.

Flickr Photos in the Morning

One of the the things I love about flickr is the ability to subscribe via RSS to the works of individual photographers. In addition to news updates, webcomics, blog posts, and the other assorted webby goodness that comes into my morning feed reader, I also get a healthy dose of just plain awesome photography. Here are some of my favorites:

Tal Bright

She shoots in Tel Aviv, and finds stark colors and contrasts. Many of her photos are close up shots of walls, doors, textured areas.

See all of her photos here.

Farl

Farl is a professional photographer who puts his non-professional work up on flickr. His non-professional work is pretty fantastic! He flies all over the world, and he is in love with all of it. His photos of Indonesian fishing villages and Brooklyn skylines alike share a kind of tender embrace, a joy toward the subject. And, again, Farl’s eye for color is amazing. Some of my favorite shots of his are from market days, just a basket of chilies or fruit.

His photo licensing doesn’t allow me to link his photos directly, but here are some links to a few photo pages of his (kerja, Reshia, pemain, lombok)

You can see all of his photos here.

Kenshi Daito

Kenshi is a process artist. Almost everything he shoots is altered significantly in the processing, but that’s not the point of his photos – the point is the narrative. There is an evocative storytelling to his photos, they pick you up midway through some series of events, and then leave you again. You become a spectator to intimate and reflective transitions in some other person’s story.

Again, the licensing restriction on his photos prevents me from linking samples here, but check out Orpheus(1), Orpheus(2), around and very close, and pregnancy. (Some of these photos are very tasteful nudes, FYI.)

All of Kenshi Daito’s photos can be seen here.

Other Notables

A few other photographers that you might enjoy, _rebekka, Thomas Hawk (unfortunately no longer posts to flickr due to censorship issues), and Nomad Photography.

There you have it. Share and enjoy! The world is a beautiful place, and an artful retelling of that beauty is always worth noticing.

iWork 08 trial

Wanna check out the new iWork ’08 from Apple? Get a free 30 day trial.

I’ve been jamming on this for a few days now, and I will definitely be buying it when the demo runs out. The changes to Keynote let me now record audio alongside the slideshow, and publish the whole thing as a flash video podcast. I’ve been doing that with my lectures for a few semesters, but as a hack. Now it’s just embedded as an option in the app. Cool! Future students, get ready for lots of this:

How 2 Be Awesome

Apple Update Disaster

So, the recent apple software update was an utter disaster. It caused crashes, system melts, and Microsoft Office apps failed to launch. After pulling my hair out all morning, I located this fix finally, and things are finally back to normal. Turns out the problem was the QuickTime 7.2 update. Here’s the post to fix the problem, if you’re having the same frustration:

http://www.macfixit.com/article.php?story=20070716100311118

Photosynth, innovative technology by … Microsoft?

tedtalks photosynth

I can’t even tell you how much it kills to me to say this, but Microsoft has been acquiring and developing some pretty interesting technology recently. Click the photo above to watch a video presentation on Photosynth, a new way of navigating and collating visual data.

Put this together with MS surface computing, and I think it just might be possible that the Blue Monster will define the next epoch of computing. Just maybe.

iphone phiasco

picture-1.pngUh-oh. Looks like Apple got into bed with the wrong partner for the iPhone launch. AT&T has massively fumbled the activation of the new phones. Customers who waited 12 hours in line outside of the Apple stores to get the phone then found themselves waiting another 12 hours to have it activated. It’s now been almost 24 hours, and still no activation. Their new phone just doesn’t work

There are even reports of customers who started the activation process, were told that it would take 24 hours, but the deactivation order went through on their old phone. They’re stuck with a $600 iBrick, and their old phone that no longer works.

Time to sell that $125 apple stock!

Read the official Apple forum thread.

updated

Looks like several AT&T retail stores refused to sell the phone unless customers bought $75 or more worth of accessories along with the phone. Check the story on Gizmodo.

Podcast Readings

I’m taking off for about 3 weeks on Sunday, and I’m down to just a few days of readings in reserve for The Bible Podcast. Anybody have an extra 15 minutes sometime today or tomorrow to help me out by reading a chapter? I’d love to get back up to 20 chapter readings in the buffer, and I think we can do that over the next two days if some of you can help me out.

Here’s what you need to have:

  1. A decent microphone. It doesn’t need to be a $5,000 vintage tube mic, in fact even a borrowed SM58 works fine if you stay a few inches away from it. I’m just trying to avoid people using their internal laptop mic.
  2. A relatively quiet spot to record. Your living room or bedroom is probably fine, unless they’re ripping up the concrete on your front sidewalk.
  3. A reasonably pleasant speaking voice. Non-American accents are a huge plus!
  4. An internet connection. Well, duh. You’re reading this somehow, right?

If you can help out, please drop me an email, put “bible podcast” in the subject line, and let me know. I’ll reply with a chapter for you to read, and a link to the text of the New English Translation online for you to read from. Read the chapter, bounce it to mp3, and email it back.

Easy as pie!

html orientation: how to blog like a code warrior!

So, you’re writing a comment on a post, or posting a quick aside here at the roadhouse, and you realize that you’d like to insert a link to make your point. Not only that, but you want to insert your very own witty text, and have THAT link to the source material, instead of just throwing down a random string of letters and numbers that happen to make up the web address.

Good news! This handy Addison Road tutorial will show you how to create a basic link. We want the end result to look like this:

Hey everyone, look at my nuts!

Whoah! That was cool? How’d we do it? By using voodoo magic! And a little bit of standard text. The process for creating a link in comments is different than it is in a post, so I’ll cover both.

links in comments

To generate the link above, I typed the following text:

<a href=”http://www.somisnuthouse.com/”>my nuts</a>

If you type that into the comments, it will automatically reformat itself into a link, just like the one above. Here’s how to change it so that it shows the text you want.

<a href=”http://THEWEBADDRESS.COM”>YOUR WITTY TEXT</a>

Some helpful hints:

  • Remember the web address goes in quotes.
  • Remember to include the http:// part of the web address. If you just copy and past from the address bar in your browser, you should be fine.
  • If you don’t put the slash in front of the last </a>, the whole rest of the blog becomes a part of your link. Way to go. Jerk.
  • If you include a link in your comment, it will probably be held for moderation. That doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, it just means we hate, HATE spam, and our automatic robot machine thinks you might be spam.

Go ahead, try it out in the comments below. We won’t make fun of you if you screw it up. Well, Systems Administrator Bobby will, but he’s a jerk. The rest of us are a bunch of nice people.

Got it? Great! Now on to posting links in a post:

links in posts

Couldn’t be easier. First, type the witty text that you want to have link somewhere. Then, highlight it:

look at my nuts

At the top of your post editor, you’ll see a toolbar that looks like this:

editor

Make sure your link text is highlighted, then click on this button: link

A popup will appear, asking you to insert the web address of the thing you want to link to. Paste the address of your link into that top box. The other options you can leave just as they are.

popup

Click insert. That’s it! Your text is now linked.

Questions? Comments? Cash donations? Hit the comments below. Be sure to include plenty of links to illustrate your point.

mobile update: full disclosure

mobile update: full disclosure

I think that this whole thing, this whole twitter, last.fm, myspace, xanga, podcast, youtube, meebo, friendster, del.icio.us, icq, instant messenger, wordpress, flickr, mobile blogging, stickam, facebook thing is all really just about one thing.

The search for social connection is the search for meaning.

Pick a person 15 to 25 years old. Anywhere in the country, any city, any school. It doesn’t matter if you know them or not. You can find their favorite movies, what books they’ve read, who they’re dating, where they live, what music they’re listening to, how they did in their classes this semester, what major they’re thinking of taking next, what they did over spring break (with pictures!) their room number, their cell-phone number, and most of the time, exactly where they are and what they’re doing right now. Right. Now. Does that sound creepy? It should sound creepy.

You don’t have to go looking; they’re already broadcasting it for you. They’ve put it all down in easily scannable, pre-formatted columns. You can get it delivered to your morning email. It’s a flood of full disclosure, a blow by blow account of every single thing that happens, every single day.

They update facebook every 15 minutes with accounts of what they’re doing. They text their twitter account with book titles and bowel movements. They stare into a tiny webcam, and openly divulge the intimate details of friends and lovers. Then they upload it to a server, where the link gets passed around faster than a business card and a fake lunch invitation at NAMM.

The flood of self-disclosure is epic.

This is what I think. We took away the meta-narratives, the structures that gave significance to the mundane actions of life. We told them that there was no reliable test for truth, and they believed us. We told them that good and bad had no meaning apart from what we decided they should mean, and they believed us. We told them that the dust between their fingers was the end of the world, the full substance of reality, and even though they knew it had to be a lie, they believed it. We stripped away everything that gave purpose, structure, dignity, and value to life, and left them nothing but doubt. They are grasping for meaning in a world where we have left them none.

And they, and we, all of us, found ourselves on Descartes stoop, listening to him lecture on the one true thing; if everything else is false, if the world and its tenants are the elaborate deceits of a cruel demon, then one true thing would still remain. Cogito ergo sum,

“I ponder. I exist.”

And we fling this one true thing out into the world, to listen for echoes. We strain to hear the shouts of others in this dark wood, to find comfort in the fact that, if we are lost, we are at least lost together. We spit out the running dialog of our ponderings, because they are the only evidence we have that something real exists.

And every time someone hears, and responds, that ephemeral tendril is drawn between us, between the thinker and the listener, and it gives meaning to both. The connection is meaning. We may not know what is true, or good, or real, we may doubt everything and anything, we may doubt even the words that we hear from the person we listen to, but the meaning isn’t in the words. It’s in the speaking and hearing. The connection is the meaning. The validation of existence is the meaning. Thin, fleeting, fragile, impossible to parse, yet it is still meaning.

Because it is so thin, and so fleeting, it takes quite a lot of it to matter.

William H. Auden was one of the great poets of the last century, maybe one of the greatest poets of the English language who ever wrote. In his poem “September 1, 1939“, written on the occasion of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Auden writes about the futility of modern life, in its relentless and ever-failing pursuit of meaning.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

In this same poem, Auden asperses love as a great deceit, saying that it is not enough for a person to be loved; what a person really wants it to be the only person loved. To be at the center of the connecting tendrils of meaning. To fling every act of disclosure out into the world, and to have it lauded and embraced, and not only that, but to be lauded and embraced while everyone else is ignored. If love is the escape from the meaningless existence, then it cannot be the kind of vacuous, self-embracing love borne out by massive self-disclosure.

What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

But Auden holds out some hope. He hangs it on two words. The search for meaning ends in despair if the the goal is to be “loved alone”. If existence is to have meaning, it can’t be because of a flood of disclosure, or the apoplectic grasping of echoes to the exclusion of others. Instead,

We must love one another, or die.

Big Kid Toys

My timing stinks. I lost my cellphone last week, which is like 2 weeks too early for me to convince Gretchen that I should replace it the lifestyle-in-a-can iPhone that comes out June 29th.

Treo 700wx

So, instead, I bought a Treo 700wx used from a guy off craigslist. Tip for used phone buyers: Sprint (and every other major carrier) keeps a list of cell phones that are legit, and those that got lifted off the back of a truck. It took me 30 seconds to call Sprint, check the ESN (Electronic Serial Number), and find out that the phone was not stolen, and could be used on my plan with no problems. If you’re going to hand some guy you’ve never met a wad of sweaty cash, it’s a good idea to make that call.

I got it home, and of course the first thing you have to do when you buy a phone is find the right ringtone to suit your style. None of the default ringers quite worked for me, so I fired up the studio, and programmed my own. Feel free to download it for your own personal use, if you like it.

MyRingtone.mp3

click to download: MyRingtone.mp3

I replaced the browser on the phone with Opera Mobile, which does a great job of viewing rich media sites on a tiny 3 inch screen. I cruised by the ole’ Road House, and was horrified at how poorly the site performs on a mobile phone. Fortunately, Alex King has programmed a plugin called WordPress Mobile Edition that detects incoming views from mobile phones, and gives them a simple single-column, no graphic version of the blog. Very cool. In the next build of the blog, I’ll probably experiment with doing my own version of an alternate site (http://m.addisonrd.com coming soon!), complete with recent comments, and the ability to do simple posting from the mobile without having to load the entire admin panel.

So far, my biggest complaint is that the phone syncs up with all my email accounts. Anywhere I go, all of my emails get to me. All of my emails. Including the 50 offers I get every day to buy pills to enhance my man junk. I need to buy a pill for that? I thought that’s why I just bought a fancy phone! Anyway, getting an alert every 20 minutes with 6 new spam emails sucks.

Any other Treo owners out there? Anyone familiar with Windows Mobile? What hacks / add-ons should I look at getting? Help me pimp out my new big kid toy! I’d really like to get a mobile version of Instant Messenger that works.

Up/Down Server Maintenance Page

This last week was a nightmare ye olde’ Addison Road server. Hardware failures, network problems, torn ligaments, data loss. Several times this week, I found myself having to shut the site down and put up a maintenance holding page.

I’m a lazy person. If I find myself doing something more than once, I’ll spend 5 or 6 hours finding a way to automate it, so that I never have to do it by hand ever again. Maybe not a good use of time, but certainly a good use of … I dunno, beer? Anyway. This is for the hobby geekers and tweakers out there, who run their own sites on servers that allow them SSH access. Suppose your site gets really slow, and you want to keep users off while you tweak. Or, maybe you’re upgrading your wordpress install, changing themes, whatever, and you don’t want your undies exposed while you do it.

Here’s how I do it.

I keep two files in the root folder of my site, index.php (it’s a wordpress site, built with php, so that’s the extension, not html), which is my normal, everyday functioning index page. The second page is named index.down.php, and it contains a simple error message to let people know that I know that the site is all hinky. In fact, you can check it out if you go there now. When my site is down for maintenance, I want to rename that page index.php, so that it shows up instead of my normal index page. I also want to rename my normal index page to index.bak.php, so that I don’t lose it. I want it all to happen with no downtime.

Pop open the .bash_profile file located in the home directory of my server. I’ve added the following two lines (ignore all of the line breaks here – enter everything on one line, anywhere in the file).

First line:
alias ard.down="mv ~/addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.php
~/addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.bak.php;
mv ~/addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.down.php
~/addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.php"

Here’s the second line:
alias ard.up="mv ~/addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.php
~/addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.down.php;
mv ~/addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.bak.php
~/addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.php"

So what are you commanding the automagic computer machine to do? ‘Alias’ means that you only have to type the short word, and the shell will execute the long command. There’s really only one command here – mv means move, but since locations are names, it also works to rename your files. The secret sauce is the semi-colon. It tells the computrix to execute the first command, then immediately execute the second command. Since this happens almost simultaneously, that makes it pretty much an instant name swap.

You’ll have to exit out, then log back in before the aliases in your .bash_profile file will work.

Once these two commands are in place, putting up a maintenance page is a simple as logging into your server via SSH, and typing ‘ard.down’. It renames the files, in an order that won’t overwrite either one, and with no downtime at all.

The advantage of this while I’m tweaking on my site is that I can still see the site, just by entering the direct URL to ‘addisonrd.com/WordPress/index.bak.php’.

Once I’ve finished whatever I’m working on, I enter ‘ard.up’, and the files are flipped back to their original names, just like that.

Candy, baby. Nothing but pie.