Welcome Back to allVishal.com

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Welcome to allVishal.com again. Same-same, but different. New logo. Revamped Portfolio section. Comments are back (do leave one, say hello). Fewer pictures of me on a pink slide on the About page (I’m not sure if this is for the better). There’s still a bunch […]

Cleaning Up

Cleaning up
As some of you may have noticed, the site is a shambles. Sure, it looks okay, but it’s now cobbled together from a pre-existing theme, ever since my old theme wasn’t going to work with the new Drupal upgrade. Since updating I’ve been inundated with comment spam. This is ironic, since I upgraded Drupal because I was getting comment spam.

So for the foreseeable future, I’m shutting off comments on this site. Sorry about this. I’m hopping on a plane in less than twenty-four hours and do not have the time to deal with this right now. The site itself needs a total overhaul at some point soon, but hopefully comments will be back long before then.

In the meantime, you can contact me by mail (allvishal at gmail) or on twitter.


allVishal is now on Twitter!

allvishal on twitter image
I‘m not an early adopter. I’m not even a late adopter. So I’m probably the last person on the entire interwub who’s signed up to Twitter, but now I have!


My Google Reader Shared Items Blog: Now with Added Value!

google reader blog image
Just wanted to give you guys a heads up that I’m now using the Share With Note feature on my Google Reader Shared Items, so in addition to the widget in the sidebar providing you with the latest links on stuff I’m browsing, you can now check the blog itself (or subscribe to its own Atom feed) for little notes by me on each item (I’ll try to write more than just, “Cool, lookit!” — I swear!). I generally share things that I hope readers of this blog will like, so lots of stuff on design of all kinds, illustration, photography and of course, lots and lots of weird stuff.

You can access my Google Reader Shared Items Blog by clicking here.


Lots of Stuff Added to the Work Page!

The last time I updated the Work page was probably sometime in 2005. This was back when the site was still on free hosting and looked all grey and lime green.

Yeah, it’s been a long time. Quite a bit has happened since then, not least of which is this redesign. I’ve always wanted to redo the work page, make it richer and more than just a bunch of images, but then I realised that while I was putting that off for the right time (it would be a good deal of work), two years had gone by.

So, I bit the bullet, sorted through my work and came up with a bunch of stuff — some of which has been posted on the journal before — but much of which is new. So surf on over to the work page and have a look around. There’s about 30 new things in the Design and Illustration sections. I haven’t added anything to photos yet, and might do so in the coming weeks.


The Perils of Overzealous Spam Combat

spam combat gladiators!In case you never noticed, there’s a ‘Recent Comments’ column in the sidebar, and the more astute among you will realise that my comment has been sitting at the top of the pile for quite a while now. At first I thought it was just my readers being polite and staying silent while I ranted and raved about hot army women, haunted dream homes, and the unsexiness of the modern caveperson. But, pretty-much every reader of this blog is a blogger themselves, and we’re a chatty lot. It was unusual to have no comments for weeks.

I decided to test the system out, and lo and behold, ran across a host of problems, all of which had to do with a malfunctioning captcha system (a ‘captcha’ is a test to find out if you’re a human and not a malicious spam program, by asking you to answer a question only a human could) . Hmm, malfunctioning is not entirely right, because it seems to have been behaving a little too well.


In order to combat comment spam, I have been using a drupal plugin that generates a random type of captcha test (maths, odd word out, etc.) and this part of the plugin seemed to be causing some problems. It would not accept answers even if they were right, and even after repeated attempts the submitted comments were automatically being marked as suspected spam.

The conundrum here is that if I turn it off entirely, the blog will — within hours — be inundated with comment spam. This is one of the main reasons I’ve reluctantly had to turn off trackbacks entirely, as several thousand were coming in daily, being marked as spam, and then just sitting there (unpublished, but still, quite annoying). I could have turned on moderation of all comments, but I don’t log into the site several times a day, and that would interrupt the flow of proceedings. Part of the fun of having a blog is seeing conversations develop while you aren’t around.

I have therefore reduced the captcha test to one type, and this seems to have solved the problem. It does mean that the site might a bit more prone to comment spambots that learn or just brute-force their way through, but I’d rather have to clean up a few unwanted comments a day rather than have my puny human meat-things be impeded in expressing their views.

Of course, there are always niggles, so do leave a comment and test the system out (remember to solve the captcha before pressing ‘post comment’!) and let me know if there are any problems (via email, at allvishal [at] gmail [dot] com).

Take that, evil machine overlords.


Captcha-ing the Spammers

I get a fair amount of spam on this site; less than most, but significant enough to be a problem. Most of it is trackback spam which, by design, isn’t an easy thing to combat, but Drupal does a decent job of things.

Comment spam, on the other hand, has been giving me a headache or two, and not in the way that you think. You see, Drupal does catch most if not all of it, but it also overzealously picks up real people’s comments (and as you can no doubt see, I have far too few of those as it is!), just like my last CMS, Pivot.

Like in Pivot, I’ve decided to implement Captchas, which basically means that you’ll have to answer a silly question at the end of the page before submitting your comment, in order to prove that you’re a human (and then hopefully the spam filter won’t eat up your message until I find it in the approval queue a day later).

Thanks to the Captcha Pack module these questions are quite varied. I haven’t used the most common image captchas (like you’d find on a blogspot page, for instance) because I don’t particularly care for them, and prefer the text questions instead.

I sometimes worry that some of the math questions might be a little too much for some people… But, then I ask myself, “Do I want those kinds of people commenting anyway?”

Captchas: defeating spambots and idiots since 2000.

allVishal.com Has Been Redesigned!

allVishal.com Redesign Banner

After months of slacking off, I finally got round to doing something I should have done way back in March: I’ve redesigned the site’s look!

When I switched over to Drupal I used the Minnelli template, a default template that comes with the program. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice and functional template, but being a graphic designer and using a standard template on my own site is a bit… well, shameful.

It took me a few hours yesterday to come up with a design that’s been more or less stewing in my brain for ages. It took the better part of the last 24… well, 32 hours for me and Samir — well, mostly Samir — to convert it from a graphic in Inkscape to a working HTML and CSS template.

This is the first time I’ve worked with the guts of Drupal, and it’s been an illuminating experience. In my previous CMS, Pivot, a lot of the functions were handled in the backend’s configuration, which meant that the template was more of a ‘wallpaper’ and it would take me about a day after it was ready to get all the right settings done in Pivot admin to make it look like what I wanted. Drupal is far less, um, guided and that is really it’s strength. You can pretty-much do anything with this CMS if you know enough PHP programming (I do not). You can probably run an entire small country using Drupal.


Unlike most people, as a old school techie I warm to complex and highly tinker-friendly things like this. In order to get the words ‘read more’ and ‘2 comments’ to work right and reposition them in the right place, we’ve had to put in a dozen or so lines of PHP code, most of which sounded like Greek at first, but have now started to make some kind of sense.

The final result is a design that is 99.99% exactly like the Inkscape mockup I made yesterday — usually in the conversion things don’t always look quite the same — and it’s certainly the tightest, most finished layout I’ve done so far.

I like it — I like it a lot, actually — and it’s a lot more functional than the older one. Post categories, for instance, have been moved up to under the title of each post, and no longer jostle for space with the ‘read more’ and ‘comments links like they used to (Amit, you should find it easier to read. When a post was under several categories that area would get really messed up).

Please note that since I’m not an idiot I don’t use Internet Explorer, and this design may not show up correctly in IE. It has been tested in Firefox and is rendered correctly in Mozilla browsers. I know that in IE6 the Journal graphic on top doesn’t show up well; it may be better in a newer version, but I figure that jumping through hoops (and trust me when I say it’s like pulling teeth) to get something to work there is only encouraging Microsoft to continue to make crappy non-compliant browsers.

So there.

There are now two sidebars while still retaining the same width on the main content, so now you don’t have to scroll halfway down the page to see the recent comments (but you all subscribe to the Comments RSS feed anyway, don’t you? Hmm?). I feel it’s a better use of the space, and it allows me to have more important things like that picture of me giving you a big, loving smooch on every page.


Believe it or not, this is only the third custom template I’ve ever done for one of my own sites. I’ve actually used more templates by others than my own! Some of you may recognise these:

iLevel layout by Vishal K Bharadwaj, circa 2004This design was on the old iLevel page, my first non-blogger blog. It came in around 6 months into my using that site which ran Greymatter. I did this design on vacation in India on a 166Mhz Pentium 1 laptop with a wonky power cord, uploaded over a 56K connection. It was my first experience with CSS and was great! I still love this layout and may end up reworking it as a standalone free template for other people to download and use someday. You can even read all the old content from that time in the ilevel.prohosting section of the journal (there are some nice photos there. If you’ll recall, iLevel was almost exclusively a photoblog).

allVishal.com layout by Vishal K Bharadwaj, circa 2006This was the template I used on my last free host, and indeed it was the template that the site was running until March 2007. I was using Pivot as the CMS for a year or so — and used a slightly personalised version of the popular Kubrick template — before designing this one (hmm, spotting a trend here). While I like it I’m not really in love with it anymore; it doesn’t quite reflect the site. Again, it might return someday as its own thing.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t just use some of those old looks (I don’t think they’ve gotten old or outdated) it’s because the site as it is now would not be best suited by those templates. The look of a webpage is a very important thing, and it should complement the content and the personality of the author in order for the site to grow. allVishal.com is not iLevel, nor is it the site that it was a year ago. Sure, the journal (that used to be the blog) has all the old content for archival purposes, and it will continue to have photos and sketches and strange musings, but a website is more than just a blog for me, and I want to explore all of those possibilities. This new layout will be a better canvas on which to do that.

I’m actually one of those old crones who remembers a time before blogs, when we just had websites, and believe it or not those were wonderful things in their own right. I love the blog medium, but to solely focus on it and forget everything else the internet and the HTML page is capable of is like abandoning books because magazines and newspapers have been invented (I stole this analogy from my brother, amongst several other things).

Anyway, I hope you like this new layout (tell me if there are any bugs!) and now that I’ve decided on a visual look I can get to work on the rest of the site’s content!


allVishal.com runs Drupal

The site’s had no activity over the last week or two because I’ve been spending my time switching over to a whole new content management system, Drupal.

It took me this long to convert all the content over from my old CMS, Pivot. Drupal is a much more robust (and much more complex) system which is what I need keeping in mind what I would like this site to be over the next few years. I doubt that I will ever need to switch again.

You will also note that the blog has changed to ‘journal’ and that there are now RSS feeds for pretty-much everything.

Also, the biggest change (and the thing that took up most of the last two weeks’ work) is the inclusion of every single blog I’ve had since 2001 into the journal. More on all this stuff later, because now I need to go out and buy myself a new camera.


Honestly, if Dan hadn't pointed it out to me, I wouldn't even know that there was anything wrong with comments. Since switching to the new version of Pivot I've been happy to have the increased spam protection. Now I don't have to spend an hour every day hunting through posts and reporting fine interwub robots who comment on my site's "nice professional design" and then try to sell me viagra. To catch the few that did still manage to squeeze through I put in a human indentifying, spambot nixing question on posts older than ten days, and that did the trick too.

Alas, it would seem that my CMS also blocks a huge list of words, including normal, harmless words like 'animal'  and 'business' and (!!) 'xxx' (!!) At least a couple of you were victims of this overzealous spam blocker, and to you and everyone else reading, I'm sowwy.

I think I've solved the problem. I just got rid of the blocked phrases list. Now you can comment to your heart's content using words like 'bouncingboobs' and esoteric phrases and proverbs like "interest free credit card" and "paris hilton"

I've also put in the spambot combatting question into every post. I think I'll still get a little spam now and then which I'll have to watch out, but hopefully it'll be of the entertaining 'bouncingboobs' variety or the flattering "nice professional deign" kind.

Nobody blocks my readers! …um, reader. Hello, you. That's a nice shirt you're wearing. You have a professional designed site which is just what I was looking for and if you enjoy bouncingboobs I–

(Vishal will shut up now).


PS I think all this flagrant use of 'bouncingboobs' is going to get my site blocked by my wonderful ISP. And I don't even have any nude pictures up yet!

PPS Well, go on then, test it out, and be as filthy and spamalicious as you can. The best, most creative entry gets their finely crafted words
turned into a crappily crafted sketch.


So I finally got my own domain name to go with the paid webspace.

The site now and forever onwards will be accessible from allVishal.com

Kindly update your links.


the brand new you, v4.5623

Welcome to the new allVishal.

In case you didn't notice, you've been redirected to the new host of this site at publiksquare.com. No ads, woohoo! The lightbox script on the work page functions properly now. Also, there's a crappy picture of me up on the about page. I figured all these years of hiding my beauty from the world didn't even result in one crazed stalker, so the embargo on photos of me has now been lifted. May not end up posting personal photos on the blog, however, but who knows. There are all those nekkid pics…

I've also moved the CMS up to the latest version — I'm not sure if Phantom Emoticon is still around. If he isn't then I'll miss the guy a little. Blogging will continue as before, do tell me if anything isn't working right, and glad to see you.

Oh, and the new address for the site is allvishal.publiksquare.com — kindly update your links.