29 Oct

A new day: Alexa Skill #1: Chinese New Year

So – I’ve opened up a new (public) chapter of my development life: Alexa Skill development.  I picked up my first Amazon Echo back when they first came out, in my desire to start working on making portions of my home “smart” (mainly, the lights in my house).  However, when they opened up the development aspect – allowing people to create their own “skills” – I also started tinkering with that (“Alexa, activate party mode!” – still working on that 😛 ).

At any rate, I decided that I should finally publish an official skill – rather than just play with them myself (which I can do – muahaha).

To that end, I have released this skill to the world:   Chinese New Year

This skill allows you to query information about Chinese New Year – on what date on the Gregorian Calendar it falls (e.g. in 2019, Chinese New Year starts on Feb 5th), what the zodiac animal (and related element) is for any given year, and the Celestial stem and Terrestrial branch in relation to the 60-year cycle.

Well, you can ask for when CNY starts on years between 1645 and 3300, anyway – calculating Chinese New Year is pretty complicated math, so I don’t support outside of that for the actual Gregorian calendar day at this point.

You can also request information about the various animals and elements, and other information generally related to Chinese New Year.

I mainly created this skill to allow my family (who celebrate Chinese New Year) to easily figure out when to celebrate each year – but I hope that you enjoy it as well!

08 Dec

First up: Ubuntu gzopen() fix

Hi all –

So my first offering is a plugin that I’ve been using for about a year now.  When we started using Ubuntu 14.04LTS (soon after it came out), my co-workers and I quickly found out that the excellent Updraft Plus backup plugin no longer worked properly, and was causing issues.

After digging through logs and searching around a bit, we discovered that the Canonical team had renamed the “gzopen()” function (which is very common!?) to “gzopen64()”.  Why? I really don’t know.  My best guess is that they were trying to differentiate between the 32-bit and 64-bit OS releases, and their development team didn’t stop to think about backwards compatibility for developers.

Anyway – this plugin simply creates a “gzopen” PHP function that works as a wrapper to a gzopen64() call.  Easy peasy!

This is now one of our default plugins, as it has no real impact on website load, but allows plugins like Updraft Plus to work properly.

You can download the plugin from this page.

07 Dec

WordPress development site

So this is my new site, primarily to handle WordPress-related development and discussions.  I decided to split it off from my personal site, just to keep things better organized for myself.  Such is the nature of things 🙂

Stay tuned…