March 2001

03/31/2001 Saturday

The Register: All your data (and biz plans) are belong to Microsoft. The Terms of Use agreement for Microsoft's Passport raises some privacy and ownership concerns for Hailstorm.
13:40 permalink

Wired: Getting Dot-Bombed in Vancouver. Apparently, Vancouver is almost as popular as Amsterdam for it's look-the-other-way attitude on pot and prostitution. No-one told me. And I've never heard it referred to as Vansterdam. Not by locals anyways. Must be like referring to San Francisco as San Fran or Frisco.
13:35 permalink

Paragraph 2 of's user agreement (found at the bottom of the registration page) requires you to view all ads found on the site. If you use any "screening or filtering systems to remove or hide ADS", your account will be terminated. (via Wired)
13:25 permalink

eWeek: Adobe, Macromedia enter new dimension. Early reviews of Adobe's Atmosphere and Macromedia's plans to add 3D to Shockwave 8.5, due out in a couple weeks. The 5M download, the lack of 3D acceleration, and little support for additional formats are quoted as drawbacks for Atmosphere. Shockwave's later release will probably be more than compensated by it's current market penetration. All 200 million existing players will automatically be updated when the new version is released. (via Tomalak's Realm)
13:10 permalink

03/30/2001 Friday

There are too many instant messaging systems. That's why Jabber is such a great thing. With a single client, I can communicate with anyone I want no matter what messaging system they use. Which is why the message I just got from AOL Instant Messenger is such a piss-off:

You have been disconnected from the AOL Instant Message Service (SM) for accessing the AOL network using unauthorized software. You can download a FREE, fully featured, and authorized client, here

Dear AOL Instant Messenger: bite me. Jabber has more information on this stupid turn of events.
12:45 permalink

03/29/2001 Thursday

Prison work songs are interesting because there is a purpose behind the music. The songs set a tempo for the work (the singers would keep time with their axes, shovels, picks, whatever they were using). The lead singer would vary the song speed so that all members of the work detail would be able to keep up. This meant that the guards supervising the work detail wouldn't have anyone to pick on. I was impressed to see that Po Lazarus was featured on the soundtrack for the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?. It's an interesting recording made by ex-prisoners. You can tell they are out of practice and hadn't sung together for a while. But it's a good song. Alan Lomax made some excellent field recordings of real prison work gangs fifty years ago which are now available on Rounder Records.
09:50 permalink The Dot-Com That Time Forgot. An interesting look at text-only advertising on Google. They are on to something. Most people learn to edit out banner ads pretty quickly - their set dimensions and definite edges make them easy to ignore. Text is more difficult to ignore. Especially when you are in text-browsing mode like when you are scanning search result lists. Also, descriptive targetted ads on search results and web directory pages should have a higher click-through because you are looking for something that matches your expectations. If the targetting is done well and the description is close to what you are expecting, you might just click on the ad. (via Tomalak's Realm)
09:25 permalink

The best part about isn't the absolute intolerance of absolutely everyone. It isn't the animated gif of the devil's head on fire. It isn't the rotting carass at the bottom of the page. It isn't the scanned image of God from a Jack Chick tract wearing a shirt with "I NEED JESUS" on it. It's the background music - it's random midi files. I got Rage Against the Machine's Killing In The Name Of. Now, how dope is that? (via Metafilter)
09:00 permalink

03/28/2001 Wednesday

Internet World: All Hail HailStorm, Savior of the Web. Jakob Nielsen's article has a completely different view from every article I've seen on Microsoft's Hailstorm. As the title suggests, he thinks it's a great idea. And he's getting roasted for it. Well, it is a great idea from a usability point of view. With Hailstorm, you wouldn't have to register for every single website you want to make a purchase from. Purchases anywhere on the web would potential require a single click. Everyone else is looking at the security and Microsoft-wants-to-own-you aspects. From these points of view, Hailstorm is bad. And they may trump the usability benefits Hailstorm would offer. If no-one trusts it, no-one will use it and there are no usability benefits. I wonder if Hailstorm has the same future as Microsoft's Passport. Passport offers the same usability benefits but still hasn't caught on outside of MSN.
09:25 permalink

People don't deal well with unpredictable behaviour. Even in situations where they are completely sheilded from any possible danger. I got almost no response when I stood on the pop machine in the Digital Space Atmosphere world and claimed I was the king and threatened to put bees in everyone's hair. Think I am done playing there now.
09:00 permalink

Are all Manilla sites built with tables within tables within tables?
08:25 permalink

03/27/2001 Tuesday

More web nostalgia. This time, it's recent history. Ghost Sites maintains an archive of screenshots of websites that have tanked. There's some famous failures like DEN and Boo as well as notorious non-commercial sites like Heaven's Gate. (link courtesy of Jim)
09:50 permalink

MSNBC: JavaScript trips up Navigator. Clicking on a radio button in NS6 causes the previous selection to be submitted. This is quite a serious bug. Credit on this one goes to Gord. Update: Charles reports that:

"actually, when the form is submitted the correct radio button *is* posted. The problem comes if you use an onClick() event to detect which radio button is clicked; then javascript returns the previously clicked button."

Thanks for the correction.
09:15 permalink

Still, VRML didn't have half-pipes. Wheeee!
09:00 permalink

I've been playing with Adobe Atmosphere (just the browser; haven't looked at the authoring tool yet). Ok, so it's VRML all over again and it suffers all the problems that are inherent to 3D, but it's fun. I'm sure the originality will wear off soon. For now, I'm exploring. I like exploring. The browser could stand some UI improvements - it looks very java applet-y. It should be more immersive with the controls rendered semi-transparently over the scene. There's a whole decade of learning behind modern first-person video games they should be borrowing from.
08:50 permalink

03/26/2001 Monday

Vectorpark is beautiful. It's all about exploring.
09:20 permalink

Boston Globe Magazine: Up in flames. User generated content is crap. Ten years ago, I saw one of those vox pops polls (similar to the What Do You Think? polls in The Onion) where the question was "Two snowflakes were reported as being identical. What are your thoughts?". A couple of the respondents were outraged that they had been lied to at school. Though we are trusted with having opinions on more important issues now, the maturity of the opinions hasn't improved. (via Metafilter)
09:00 permalink

Cat people scare me. Don't get me wrong - it's not the cats I find disturbing. I have tremendous respect for any animal that will eat it's owner when the owner dies. (via Metafilter)
08:55 permalink

03/25/2001 Sunday

O'Reilly's Javascript and CSS DevCenter. (via Glish)
15:30 permalink Common Browser Implementation Issues. Explores the cross-browser inconsistencies encountered while authoring and suggests some solutions. Looked exciting at first but most of the suggestions are either fairly well-known or at too high a level of approach to be really useful. (via Glish)
15:30 permalink

At some point, the deciding aspect in human survival and evolution would have switched from physical aspects like strength and intelligence to religion and beliefs. When two populations of humans came in contact, the fittest belief system would survive. I wonder what aspects of religions (past and present) can be considered successful and conducive to the survival of adherents. I'm pretty sure intolerance of other systems of beliefs would have to be one of those aspects.
14:30 permalink

03/23/2001 Friday

Though window.location happily returns a string when used in a string context (which is often), it's really just returning the value of location.href. location itself is an object so you can't use String methods on it.
09:55 permalink

Wired: Oil and Websites Don't Mix. In the transition from the Clinton to the Bush administration, website managers were asked to remove content that related to the old government's policies. This included Clinton's strong stance against mineral exploration in wildlife reserves. How far can you go without making it look like you are re-writing history and science?
09:15 permalink

E-Commerce News: Harnessing the Power of Online Pricing. Low online prices aren't as important as you may think. The vast majority of book and toy shoppers will buy at the first site they encounter. Once again, WebWord offers an excellent comment - finding another site with the same content isn't as easy as clicking on the "buy" link. On a side note, the page features one of those new huge Flash ads right smack in the middle of the content but this one is the least annoying one I've seen. (via WebWord)
09:10 permalink

The oldest existing webpage? Last modified Monday, May 18, 1992.
08:55 permalink

Some old school icons. My fravorite ones, though, are the grey button icons with the raised border (an example). Six years ago, the web was full of these. I'll see if I can find a collection of them. (via RasterWeb)
08:50 permalink

03/22/2001 Thursday

I'm sick of melodramatic weblogs written by barely-employable cat-lovers who's posts consist of 8 lines of song lyrics, news about their latest haircut, and 2-pages of angst because their friend isn't talking to them right now. The problem with the web is the low entry barrier. Everyone is a designer, poet, philosopher, counsellor, and pundit.
12:10 permalink

03/21/2001 Wednesday

I've been thinking about community lately. On the web, community means user-submitted content - usually in the form of message boards, chat rooms (what a stupid phrase), moderated articles, and article feedback. Usually, community adds little value. On commercial websites, the focus of the community is usually too narrow and contributions are over-moderated. Even if these sites learned to open up and allow more freedom in their communities, they would discover the fundamental flaw with communities - very little community-generated content is unique, well researched, or reflective of a broad demographic. Ego plays a huge role in who submits content. What results is a public exhibition of egotistical personalities, prejudices, and opinions. Some examples:

  • Some of the supposedly high signal-to-noise mailing lists I am on deteriorate into religious wars on tables vs. CSS or Netscape vs. IE.
  • Many of the postings to Metafilter are politically oriented and always end up in Democrat vs. Republican sparring.
  • The listener-submitted content on CBC, which has been experiencing budget cuts and is looking for cheaper methods of filling airtime, is awful. Tod Radio, Out Front, and This Morning all feature dreary personal monologues by dreary personalities. I don't want to hear about these middle-class lives and their middle-class anxieties / concerns / experiences.

Not all community is bad. I find the user-submitted product reviews at Epinions and the Consumer Review family of sites invaluable. And many of the sites that I rely upon for news and information feature content that is almost completely community-submitted.
10:20 permalink

Almost nothing is predictable but almost everything is explainable.
09:20 permalink

03/20/2001 Tuesday

Wired: Games Are Phones' Call for Alms. Some wireless companies and analysts believe the phone-based gaming market may be worth $6 billion by 2005. I don't know if I'd beleive that but the article does have a good review of the current state of the wireless game industry.
09:10 permalink

My head's all swimmy today. I hate being sick. I'm lousy at it.
09:00 permalink

Using align attributes with values of either right or left in images contained in table cells will add an hspace of 3 if hspace is not set. In Netscape, a value of center will add a one pixel gap at the top of the image. Use the align attribute of the <td> tag instead.
08:50 permalink

03/19/2001 Monday

WebReview: The Myth of 800x600. Another argument in the fixed vs flexible layout religious war. This one is backed up by some stats. But the interesting stuff is the alternative layout approaches outlined towards the end of the article. (via Tremendo)
10:05 permalink

The Internation Herald Tribune has some interesting usage of DOM and other technologies. Check it out in IE5.
10:00 permalink

A prime number that, when written in hex, forms the zip file for a DVD descrabbler. Things like that make you think that we haven't even begun to understand the universe. This comes on the heals of the Omega Number that apparently proves that math is just a happy accident and not a pure absolute. One of the things I like about reality (especially science) is that it is far weirder than any science fiction writer could possibly imagine.
09:15 permalink

I think I've read everything on Joel's site. He has some very interesting things to say and I find myself agreeing with him more often than not. More importantly, though, he knows how to write.
09:05 permalink

03/15/2001 Thursday

Wired: This Link Wasn't Better Business. An Israeli website includes a link to the Better Business Bureau site along with other sites of interest to small business owners. However, the company that runs the site isn't a member of the BBB. So the BBB wants the link removed because the link "may imply or mislead consumers into assuming that our organization supports your business or that there is a business relationship between us." An interesting case in the argument over whether links are public domain or not.
09:15 permalink

03/14/2001 Wednesday

I like imaginary inventions. Like the drawings of Rowland Emett. Emett mixed his love of England's disappearing independent railways and homemade inventions with a whimsical sense of humour in superbly detailed and timeless illustrations. He also built huge 3D models of some of his creations (particularly a number of flying machines) some of which can be found at the Ontario Science Center. My parents had an Emett book which I would study for hours. For some reason, the web is almost devoid of Emett creations. This small gallery of images is about it. Another English artist with an interest in invented inventions was W. Heath Robinson (warning: high-contrast background graphic). But I'm not too fond of his pre-art deco fantasy illustrations.
14:55 permalink

Argus and Associates is dead. Bit of a shock. They were one of the leaders in the information architecture field. They brought us the Information Architecture for the World Wide Web book. (via Camworld and Webword)
10:00 permalink

03/12/2001 Monday

Bag becomes a bowl.
13:10 permalink

Washington Post: A One-Day Career at a Dot-com. Hired at 9 am, laid off at 5 pm. (via Slashdot)
09:40 permalink

A couple days ago, I posted a response to a mailing list about cross-browser print functions. And I included the VBScript code that performs printing in IE4 PC. After sending it, I got an automated reply from the BBC postmaster saying that the message had been blocked because of the VBScript. Interesting.
09:35 permalink

I keep thinking that the next incarnation of the Survivor meme should take place at an internet start-up. Each week, someone gets laid off. The office environment would naturally provide all the politics, sex, in-fighting, deceit, etc you would need to keep the audience captivated.
09:10 permalink

03/09/2001 Friday

Colin Moock is writing an O'Reilly book! Actionscript: The Definitive Guide already has a companion website with code samples and chapter outlines available. For the record, Colin is a god. (Info from Ryan)
12:20 permalink

Even though it isn't pretty, the only way to make table backgrounds behave in Netscape 4 is to use nested tables. I've been looking for a solution that doesn't require nesting tables (because too many levels of nested tables makes Netscape think too long) but couldn't find one. I tried setting the background image on the <table> tag and using a transparent background image in all the <td> tags. But the table cell background just replaces that inherited from the table so you see the body background in the cell. And it doesn't matter if the background is set through the background attribute or the background-image style sheet property.
10:30 permalink

NS Mac doesn't define document properties before the <body> tag. Notably document.images. This means that you can't use a standard image preloader script in the <head> of your page. But why would you want to preload images that will appear later before the images that should appear now?
10:15 permalink

03/08/2001 Thursday

Calling window.close() from a frame doesn't do anything (actually, in IE it sometimes has some interesting but unhelpful concequences). I have to get in the habit of using top.close() when closing any windows because it'll work in framed and non-framed environments. Using top instead of window is probably a good thing in most situations.
11:05 permalink

The Take Back The Net Crusade is silly. And misguided. It asks you to support "the web" by buying something on-line on April 3th. When I think of "taking back the web", I think of the people who built the earliest sites around the sharing of knowledge and content trumping those who now control it - VCs, fucked companies, and e-commerce greedheads. This campaign validates their existance and their view of the web as a place to sell people stuff they don't need. Pretty much all web-based campaigns are silly. Even if the principles involved are good, the method tends to involve an empty gesture. (via Tremendo)
09:30 permalink

Salon: I can't get laid off. The other side of dot-com layoffs. If you manage to stick around to the bitter end, you don't get severance and you may end up paying the corporate credit card bill. (via Camworld)
08:50 permalink

Went to Sugar Mountain (candy store) last night. I didn't eat much candy when I was young - only at Halloween - so I didn't recognize a lot of the old nostalgia candy. But I did find Atomic Fireballs. The last time I had one was about 15 years ago. They are like eating a mouthful of cinnamon hearts. They were just as good (bad) as I remember.
08:45 permalink

03/07/2001 Wednesday

Salon: The News According to Blogs. A comment on the value of community weblogs in general and Metafilter in specific. It cites the same earthquake thread I felt demonstrated the value of Metafilter. (via Metafilter, of course)
15:15 permalink is beautiful on so many different levels. From the old-school breakout game intro to the funky view-source behaviour in Netscape. I am in awe. Thanks to Sang for showing me. Update: Worked out how iotic does what it does. And I'm still in awe. More than before.
13:20 permalink

Eric Costello is working on a flexible 3-column page layout using CSS. I've been considering converting this site's table-based layout to a pure CSS layout.
09:45 permalink

Perl is insane. I distrust any programming language you can write poetry with. The qrpff program isn't poetry but it is scary. It's a 7 line DVD descrambler. (via Wired)
09:40 permalink

Merges: How to make URLs user-friendly. Good advice on naming url paths. Every point is easy to follow in practice (except for self-correcting urls - that would require some powerful backend coding). So if it's so easy, why aren't most urls more friendly? Why spend millions on an easy-to-remember domain name and then make the paths to individual pages impossibly cryptic? Because people want to stop deep linking for some reason. That's a problem that should be addressed first. (via WebWord)
09:35 permalink

Salon: When two gadgets become one. The VisorPhone is a card-like attachment for the Visor PDA. The merging of cellphone and PDA technologies is inevitable. No-one wants to carry around lots of little gadgets. (via Tomalak's Realm)
09:20 permalink

03/06/2001 Tuesday

Another thing Cam doesn't like are open links in another window things (see upper right of this page). His reason is that it needlessly adds javascript that duplicates functionality already present in most browsers. However, using javascript allows the same window to be targetted for all links whereas the standard Open in New Window function spawns a new window everytime (and closing those windows is just as bad as clicking the back button everytime). Cam is pretty gloomy. But in a good way. Update: Wait. No. Sorry. That was Rasterweb. Sorry.
10:30 permalink

The Guardian: Spot the difference. Article about sites that steal design, layout, or content from other sites. It's a fairly widespread phenomena. Stealing is ok only when the owner says it's ok. Like with the javascript library - it's ok to steal stuff from there (only don't pretend it's yours). Google is a good way to look for ripoff sites. Just one of it's many facets. (via Xblog)
10:00 permalink

It smells like McDonald's hash browns all over downtown Vancouver today. As a consequence, I've decided to stop breathing for the day.
09:00 permalink

03/05/2001 Monday

Kottke likes Metafilter, Cam doesn't. I'm somewhere in the middle. Granted I visit several times a day but I'm only really interested in a minority of the postings. But Metafilter really showed how important and insightful it can be when the earthquake hit last Wednesday. Lots of personal experiences being shared.
09:10 permalink

Evolt: Javascript: The Point of No Return?. All about return statements in event handlers. The short explaination is that return false cancels the further propagation of an event (for instance, onclick="return false;" on a link will prevent the link from being followed). Generally, this is pretty consistent - return false to prevent any normal behaviour associated with the event. However, for some reason, if you use the onmouseover event handler of a link to display text in the status bar, you need to return true to prevent the url of the link from appearing in the status bar (obscuring your text).
08:55 permalink

Large sign on the side of a residential tower still being built:

Hurry! We'll be sold out long before the final tribal council!

Anyone have any idea what the hell that means?
08:45 permalink

The Taste of India restaurant up the street is under new management. It is now called Aroma of India.
08:40 permalink