March 2004 Archives

Radio UserLand comment limit

Interesting bit of trivia: Radio UserLand's comment system will only display a maximum of 125 comments for any given entry. Robert Scoble ( The Scobleizer Weblog) found this out the hard way - his EU decison post has received 137 comments so far.

UserLand CEO Scott Young says this is by design:

Its true. The commenting system has a defined limit for each each comment window. We had a problem with a malicious user trying to post extremely large messages in order to disrupt some Salon Blogs, so this restriction was added. Its not a bug, its a feature. ;-)

Side note: I wonder if trackbacks suffer from this limitation as well?

Look Ma - no tables!

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A seemingly simple question asked a while back at MezzoBlue, one that I struggled with myself for a long time before giving up and using tables:

Is it possible to use floats to position a fixed-width sidebar on the right of a page, with a liquid content area, if the content comes before the sidebar in the markup?

Floating, and not absolute positioning is necessary for the sake of a clearing footer.

1) no changing the order of the code (although adding new divs would be fine), and 2) no using absolute positioning unless you can somehow make it work with the footer.

Ryan Brill came up with an ingenious solution using negative margins that seems to work in almost all browsers. I have re-done the templates on this site with a variant of that method posted by Janos Horvath, which allows a background color to extend the full height of the page regardless of whether the content or the sidebar is longer than the other.

Finally! Table-free! (Hat tip: Richard Eriksson)

High praise for Rhye

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Rhye wrote up a Newbie Tip for Liz on "How To Insert A Picture Into Your (Radio) Blog", based on the following remark in Liz's weblog:

"...and if I ever figure out how to upload pictures, you will see for yourselves. I know that I just need to go to Rhye's site and find the info, because she is the be-all, end-all Radio Goddess, but that didn't happen today."

Rhye thanked Liz for the encouraging words, but claims its not even half-true. If you only knew about all the macro code Rhye helped me write (wink!). I only aspired to be a "Rogue Radio Rat" (and not a "Radio Rug Rat"!).

Rhye really is doing a great job of helping out in the Radio forums, even though she seems to attract more than her fair share of Mac users with Salon.com weblogs and she has neither one.

P.S. Rhye should really know better than to tell me not to post things like this. :)

David Lazarus has yet another update on the issue of payroll check cashing fees charged by California banks. David's 2nd column on this issue (Wed. 03/17) attracted the attention of Sen. Dean Florez, chairman of the state Senate Banking Committee:

"(S)tate legislators are alarmed by a sudden firestorm over bank check-cashing fees and the thousands of California firms believed to be breaking the law by allowing the fees to be charged."

A hearing has been scheduled for March 31, where representatives of all interested parties will be called upon to testify. Sen. Florez said, "Legislators will move quickly to ensure that California labor laws are enforced." One possible solution, according to Florez, is to amend existing statutes to require that employers pay any such fees on behalf of workers.

John Withers, who runs a chain of seven hair salons stretching from San Jose to Santa Rosa, is worried he's violating the law because Bank of America processes paychecks for his 65 employees. Withers said he contacted Bank of America after reading about the situation Wednesday and asked what the bank was doing to look after its business clients. "They basically said that they had no liability so it wasn't their problem," he recounted. "They said that this was their fee, and they plan to stick with it."

Bank of America currently handles the $1.2 billion annual payroll for the city of San Francisco's 27,000 employees. Bank of America told city treasurer Susan Leal that it wanted to impose the $5 fee on all city workers who did not have accounts at Bank of America before the fee was introduced in August of 2002. According to Leal, "I told them there was no way in hell I was going along with that. And they immediately backed down."

Similarly, Leal said Wells Fargo is bidding to take over San Francisco's payroll processing and that officials from the bank recently declared their intention to levy a $5 fee on all non-account holders working for the city. "I told them that if they did, it would be against our contract. And they backed down too."

In David's first article, Wells Fargo regional president Lisa Stevens said that "People are free to bank wherever they choose." While she was talking about individual customers, her statement applies equally to business customers. Business customers may soon have a huge financial incentive not to bank with Bank of America or Wells Fargo if the banks don't wake up, and it would serve them right if business customers took their business elsewhere.

In my last post regarding Wells Fargo and Bank of America charging non-customers $5 to cash their paychecks, I said, "This is one of those things that some banks do that should be illegal...". Well, come to find out, it is. David Lazarus has a follow-up to his previous column, which got the attention of the state's Department of Industrial Relations.

According to Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the Department of Industrial Relations, the charges violate Section 212 of the California Labor Code, which requires that payroll checks "be negotiable and payable in cash, on demand, without discount."

"It is clear that every employer who has allowed a fee to be charged for cashing a paycheck is in violation of the labor code."

It's not clear whether the banks can be forced to comply with state law, as they are somewhat shielded from state regulation by federal law. But even if the banks cannot be forced to comply, the employer can be held liable for the fees.

It should be interesting to see how this plays out.

David Lazarus has a column in the SF Chronicle about banks that charge non-customers $5 to cash payroll checks drawn against that bank. The offenders: Wells Fargo (beginning April 1st) and Bank of America. Wells Fargo's reasoning for the fee:

"We're providing a service so we're going to charge for it," said Lisa Stevens, the bank's Bay Area regional president. "The employer (with the business account) is not paying for the employee checks to be cashed."

Why aren't business customers paying for this cost? If a 100 employee business was charged $500 every payroll period to cash its payroll checks, how long do you think that business would remain a bank customer? And what does Wells Fargo think employees are going to do with their payroll checks - frame them?

Wells Fargo does allow these employees to open a free account, which would then allow them to cash their payroll checks without paying the $5 fee. Personally, I don't think that shafting your non-customers is the best way to convince them to open an account at your bank - I'm not a believer in rewarding bad behavior.

This fee is wrong on a number of levels: 1) Wells Fargo and Bank of America are requiring non-customers to pay them extra fees just for doing their regular job - it is not something they deserve extra money for; 2) If the costs of cashing checks are really that burdensome, the business account holder should be charged for those costs, or perhaps Wells Fargo and Bank of America should stop offering business payroll accounts due to their unprofitability; 3) Wells Fargo and Bank of America are shifting costs that should be born by the business account holder onto the banks' non-customers and other banks; 4) A person should not have to pay a fee to get their own money being held at that bank.

This is one of those things that some banks do that should be illegal - the bank is abusing its non-customers only because the bank is in possession of the non-customer's funds and the non-customer has little if any recourse. It is along the same line as banking rules that allow banks to process a checking account's daily deposits and checks in any order they want without liability. (I think that should be illegal too.)

Wells Fargo and Bank of America are banks that I will never do business with. Two other banks were cited in the article that do not charge non-customers a fee to cash checks drawn against their own bank - Citibank and Washington Mutual. I have no knowledge or experience with Citibank, but I can say that I've been a happy Washington Mutual customer for the last few years.

Seeing this story about Wells Fargo reminded me of my experience with them some years ago. I had an account at Wells Fargo and got into some trouble with it during an extended period of unemployment - the account ended up being overdrawn and I had no funds immediately available to cover the overdraft. Wells Fargo closed the account, which I fully expected them to do.

I had a Visa check card issued on that account, which I had used to pay for internet access (AOL). I did not cancel the AOL right away - I figured that when the next monthly payment was due, the payment would be rejected and AOL would then cut off my access. Boy, was I wrong.

Wells Fargo re-opened the account (multiple times), processed the charge, charged the account insufficient funds and excessive overdraft (over-limit) fees, then re-closed the account. Wells Fargo saw nothing inherently wrong in re-opening a closed (and overdrawn) account, solely to maximize the amount of fees they could get from me.

They turned the account over to a collection agency and reported me to ChexSystems (the equivalent of a credit bureau for banks to check records of potential new customers wanting to open new checking and savings accounts), making it almost impossible for me to get a checking account at another bank.

I ended up having to pay 1/2 of the total overdraft to settle the account - Wells Fargo decided that the account maybe should not have been re-opened. They also told me that I would never be able to have an account with them again, which was fine by me - I never wanted to do business again with a bank that would screw treat its customers that way. The new fee that Wells Fargo will charge is even more reason for me to avoid them like the plague.

I used Timothy Appnel's mt-rebuild script to automatically update the "Rhye's Recent Entries" list each hour. When I tested mt-rebuild in a cron job, I received notification of 3 errors:

1. Can't locate object method "add_conditonal_tag" via package "MT::Template::Context" (perhaps you forgot to load "MT::Template::Context"?) at /home/dpdave00/public_html/scgi-bin/plugins/entrylist.pl line 29.
Compilation failed in require at /home/dpdave00/public_html/scgi-bin/lib/MT.pm line 117.

This error looked complicated and messy until I looked at the source code in entrylist.pl (code for the MT-EntryList plugin):

27 MT::Template::Context->add_conditional_tag(EntryListNoHeader => \&entrylist_headfoot);
28 MT::Template::Context->add_conditional_tag(EntryListNoFooter => \&entrylist_headfoot);
29 MT::Template::Context->add_conditonal_tag(EntryListEmpty => \&entrylist_empty);

(Line numbers added for clarity)

In line 29, "conditonal" is misspelled. This is easy to see when comparing it to the previous lines, but it's also easy to miss when looking at it by itself. I edited line 29 of entrylist.pl, changing "conditonal" to "conditional" and uploaded the modified file to the server, eliminating this error.

Oddly enough, another user had received this exact error 5 months ago from MT-Medic and posted it to the MT-EntryList page at mt-plugins.org. That post does not seem to have been answered.

2. "my" variable $is_switch masks earlier declaration in same scope at /home/dpdave00/public_html/scgi-bin/plugins/switch.pl line 54.

The cause of this warning is relatively straightforward to see and correct. From switch.pl (code for the MT-Switch plugin):

50 my $is_switch = $ctx->stash('is_switch',1);
51 my $builder = $ctx->stash('builder');
52 my $tokens = $ctx->stash('tokens');
53 my $out = $builder->build($ctx, $tokens);
54 my $is_switch = $ctx->stash('is_switch',0);

(Line numbers added for clarity)

The declaration of "my $is_switch" should only occur once in the same block of code. It is proper when used in line 50, but not proper in line 54. To correct this problem, I deleted the keyword "my" from line 54 then uploaded the modified file to the server.

3. mt-rssfeed: http://rhye32.tweezersedge.com/blog/rss.xml could not be cached as ./db/rss.httprhye32tweezersedgecomblogrssxml. at /home/dpdave00/public_html/scgi-bin/plugins/mt-rssfeed.pl line 391.

This was a configuration problem on my end - the path to where the MT-RSSFeed plugin should store its cached feeds needed to be a full (not relative) path. Editing the $RSSFEEDDATADIR variable in mt-rssfeed.pl corrected this problem.

I thought it was odd that the mt-rebuild script was giving errors in plugins that were not being directly used. My guess is that the mt-rebuild script tries to initialize all plugins before rebuilding any templates, and errors/warnings are not suppressed, leading to the errors I received. Somewhat of a pain to fix, but I'm glad it's working now.

Welcome Rhye to tweezersedge.com!

My girlfriend Rhye used up her free web space on her Earthlink DSL account, so she's migrated her weblog (Just Around The Bend) to a new home here at tweezersedge.com. Links to Rhye's latest posts can be seen in the home page sidebar, plus her weblog has been added to the blogroll.

Please help welcome Rhye to tweezersedge.com by taking a moment to visit her weblog and perhaps dropping a note in her comments.