May 2001

05/30/2001 Wednesday

If you put a positioned layer inside another positioned layer (so that the first is a child of the second), you'd think the boundary of the parent layer would enclose the child layer. But if you add a border to the parent layer, it's dimensions aren't affected by the position of the child. The child can fall outside the border but still be visible. Only when you clip the parent will the child be affected. The upshot of this is that you can't expect the background of a parent layer to extend beneath all of it's children. Which sucks.
15:55 permalink

The Standard: Battle of the Acronyms: MSN vs. AOL. MSN is trying to lure AOL users after AOL raises it's prices. The plot thicks.
10:00 permalink

Air Canada's site ain't very usable. It looks ok at first glance. Like United Airline's site, what appear to be the most important features are prominent on the homepage. But looking closer, the Schedules module just gives you flight schedules for a particular day and route but doesn't give you fares (I know it says Schedules but people will still expect fare information). After looking at the schedules for both departing and returning flights, you can choose Shop for Fares (also on the homepage but not as prominent) but you have to re-enter your schedule information. And you can only see fare information after you choose the individual flights - choosing a flight based on both time and expense is an iterative process of trial and error. Finally, returning to the homepage, what looks like dropdowns for choosing the departure and arrival cities aren't. They are textboxes. The down arrow button brings up a popup window with a multiple select box with the available cities. Javascript is used to populate the textbox with your choice from the list. Javascript is also required to prevent multiple selections from being made from the list. And there's nothing preventing me from editing the choice in the textbox to a nonsense value. I know what they were trying to do - they wanted to give visitors the ability to directly type in the city name or code. But few people know that Toronto is YYZ or Beijing is PEK. And people would rather choose a value that they know will work from a list than type in a value that may not work. It would be better to stick with a normal dropdown and avoiding the reliance on Javascript for this important user element.
09:50 permalink

05/29/2001 Tuesday

OMIGOD! It's a ten-legged chicken!
15:45 permalink

NS4.x doesn't like the use of the style attribute in any tag that is part of the content in a positioned element. It can cause the browser to lose the reference to the positioned element, messing up your DHTML, and makes later positioned elements lose their styles. If you need to apply styles to the contents of a positioned element, place the styles in a stylesheet, either external or within the page, and apply them through a class or id.
12:10 permalink

The Register: Opera to be default browser in Symbian ref designs.
09:00 permalink

Interesting stuff on mapping the web at PeterMe.
08:55 permalink

05/28/2001 Monday

Setting a line-height in NS4.x usually causes images to overlap text and other images.
14:25 permalink

BetaNews: AOL, MS to Finalize Deal for XP Real Estate. Perhaps AOL's earlier announcements regarding using a Mozilla-based browser were just intended to make MS play nice. This move looks like it will continue the AOL-MS relationship.
14:00 permalink

Others have noticed the trend of ex-weblogs. Witness FuckedWeblog. (via Snowdeal)
10:05 permalink

Phone conversations lack the visual elements of face-to-face conversations. Things like facial expressions and posture. These things are just as important to the conversation as the actual words. On the phone, you need to make up for the lack of these elements. So tone of voice, emphasis and tempo become vitally important. Because humans can't multi-task, doing something else while talking on the phone is difficult. If the other thing is a habitualized task which requires little actual effort (like walking), you can concentrate on the conversation. If you begin to concentrate on the other task, you can't concentrate on the nuances of the conversation - nuances that your conversation partner expects. So you are tempted to concentrate on the conversation than on the other task even if safely performing the other task requires your concentration. Which is often the case when you are driving. And this is one of the main arguments against the use of cellphones in cars. Some provinces are looking at banning cellphones in cars altogether. What we need is a system that allows delayed conversations in cars. A medium where responses aren't required or expected right away. Like a voice-based instant messenging system for cars. Luckily, it already exists. It's called CB radio.
09:55 permalink

05/25/2001 Friday

Looking for some light entertainment for your next garden party? Why not hire a freak?
09:25 permalink

The window methods are probably the least consistently implemented part of Javascript rivaling DHTML in their non-cross-browser-ness. The open() method can set the interior dimensions of the browser window (the area within which webpages appear) whereas the resizeTo() method changes the exterior dimensions. Except in NS4.x where resizeTo() works with the interior dimensions. On the Mac, scrollbars are on the outside of the window's active area; on the PC, they are on the inside. In IE4.x, you can't call the focus() method on a new window immediately after it is opened with open(). In some cases in IE5.x, you can't focus an existing window immediately after a call to open(). Trying to call focus() on a window that contains a page from a different domain than that window's opener returns an 'Access denied' error in IE4.x but not in other browsers. And if you want to see an interesting bug, try to open a window with all the GUI elements (scrollbars, statusbar, toolbar, menubar, etc) with minimum dimensions (supposedly 100 by 100 pixels but this varies according to the browser) in IE5.x PC.
08:50 permalink

05/23/2001 Wednesday

I have a text file on my desktop that I used to enter notes on odd behaviour of web browsers. The idea was that I could add a note easily at any time. Problem was that it had no order or strucutre to it and as soon as it grew past a couple K, searching through the list became unweildy. I still think it's a good idea but it should be in the form of a database that you can search. And it should be publically accessible. Yet another plan of mine that I might get around to eventually.
10:00 permalink

Glish, having been quiet for a while, has announced a break. Camworld is on hiatus. Dack wants to spend time on his golf game. Sylloge might be back later this year. The latest tread in weblogging is not weblogging. The web (and work) is a poor replacement for life.
09:45 permalink

05/18/2001 Friday

In western news reports, the second most important thing about a person (I'm talking about non-famous people here) is their age. The most important thing is either their gender or their name. Scan any newspaper. "Youth, 16..." "Jose del Mar, 29..." Why is a person's age so vitally important to the understanding of why they are in the news? In Japan, age isn't as relevant as the person's place in society - generally given by a generic job title - and where they live. "Kenji Yamasaki, a company director from Chiba prefecture..."
09:15 permalink

Navigation on the web. I agree with the toilet-paper roll analogy. (via Antenna)
08:35 permalink

Following yesterday's anniversery, the oldest static page on the web (that I know of) is nine years old today. It was last modified Monday, May 18, 1992 1:38:38 PM GMT.
08:30 permalink

05/17/2001 Thursday

While searching for something on Metafilter, I came across an old post from last year that mentions those old Netscape alphas. Also links to a complete resurrection of the site circa 1994.
12:05 permalink

The web is ten years old today. (via Slashdot)
09:00 permalink

iaslash cites a USAToday print article on the most common problems encountered by visitors to a number of major websites.
08:55 permalink

05/16/2001 Wednesday

Rendering Effective Route Maps: Improving Usability Through Generalization is a brief but interesting paper on how to improve route maps (a map designed to show how to get from one geographical location to another - like those created by sites like MapQuest and MapBlast). Their approach is very Tuffte-esque - remove superfluous information that isn't related to the data you want to show. This means ditching all the features that aren't part of the route. One thing that they removed but which I would find important in following a route is the streets immediately before and after the route changes from one street to another. Knowing the before-street allows you to prepare to change streets. Knowing the after-street allows you to know when you've gone too far and how to recover from the mistake. (via xBlog)
09:50 permalink

The Standard: Sony Makes Real Deal for PlayStation. Sony is preparing PlayStation 2 to compete with future rival XBox (from Microsoft). There are plans to incorporate AOL features and a Netscape browser into PlayStation 2 by the end of 2002. Real Player 8 will also be built into the consoles.
09:35 permalink

Evolt has tracked down copies of very early Netscape browsers (0.4 to 0.8).
08:55 permalink

05/14/2001 Monday

I'm surprised there isn't more documentation on the 8000000a error. A google search brings up only 43 pages - most of them pleas of help from people who ran into this obscure and ominous bug. It shows up in any DHTML application that tries to change an element's innerHTML property before the page has finished loading when viewed in IE4 SP1 or SP2. This probably explains why no-one sees it now - you can't have IE5 and IE4 installed on the same Windows machine so most people don't have access to IE4. You can avoid this error by waiting until the page has finished loading before changing the innerHTML property - effectively the same thing you need to do with NS4.x (I wrote about NS4.x's inability to write to layers while parsing a page earlier). Moral of the story: keep a machine with IE4.x around.
18:10 permalink

Elearningpost: Grassroots KM through blogging. (via xblog)
09:50 permalink

For companies, the reaction to various stimulus will vary depending on their philosophies. The time to react, though, is governed almost entirely by company size and structure. Big companies react slowly because of the sheer number of people and amount of information involved. Small companies act quickly because the same reasons. This means that, in an economic slow-down, big companies adjust slower. Interim measures may be put into effect quickly, but the long-term strategy won't become apparent for several months. If your company works with big companies, you are just feeling the true effects of the recent recession (yes, it's a recession). There were some hiccups earlier as your clients went into wait-and-see mode. But, now they have decided on their strategy and only now can you can see how the current conditions affect you. If you work with small companies, you already know what the next year will bring you. You've known for a while.
09:45 permalink

Sherry likes Iain Banks novels but I can't really get into them. I'm not a fan of the scifi or fantasy genres. Partly because truth is stranger than fiction (I've never encountered a scifi novel that contained anything more imaginitive than what really exists). I also like character-driven fiction and find that the plot devices present in scifi and fantasy detract from the characters. The closer the book's elements are to a possible reality, the more I can understand the characters' behaviour. I've just realized, though, that fiction genres with a high degree of freedom are also able to explore possibilities that could be (and, perhaps, should be) in reality. Case in point: Slashdot's recent discussion about Iain Bank's books based around The Business where promotion is determined by peers instead of higher-ups.
09:25 permalink

05/11/2001 Friday

Well, one good, productive thing came of the new Palm - I finished the AvantGo Channel that I had been planning for months. You can add the mobile version of Dithered to your AvantGo account or just view the raw version.
14:55 permalink

A List Apart: Size Matters - Making Font Size Keywords Work. Some rather involved hacks are needed in order to get the fontsize keywords (x-small, small, etc) to work cross-browser. At what point does the work involved not make the result worthwhile?
09:50 permalink

05/10/2001 Thursday

For quite a while, I haven't been able to open links in emails or IM messages. Clicking the link launches IE but the browser doesn't navigate to the required page. I've had to resort to copy and pasting urls. It's been annoying. Just now, I got it to work again. The problem was that IE wasn't registered as the default browser even though it was the one that was associated with the various html extensions.
10:35 permalink

I keep getting Japanese spam and I don't know why. And I can't read it.
09:40 permalink

A look through my referrer logs turned up Tim Morgan Design which uses the 1k DHTML API with some added features. When I get some time, I'm planning on adding some additional libraries to the API for drag-and-drop and event handling.
09:35 permalink

Website evolution is interesting but there isn't too many resources on the topic. A few sites have a page detailing their homepage's evolution (see Edmunds, Microsoft, WebReference, and GNN). But most sites are embarassed by the mistakes that were made or the naivety shown by their earlier incarnations. Then you have to resort to snapshots of sites made in the past and compare them to the current incarnations. As a last resort, you can check out NetSlave's Ghost Sites which archives screenshots of sites which have disappeared.
09:15 permalink

05/09/2001 Wednesday

Peter Dombrovskis photos always give me chills. Tasmania is beautiful. I want to go back.
14:00 permalink

From the where-are-they-now files: Tina Yothers (Family Ties) has a band; Dustin Diamond (Saved by the Bell) teaches chess.
09:25 permalink

I wonder how generally applicable Macromedia's Web Site Production Management Techniques are. (via Tremendo)
09:15 permalink

The latest release of the JSRS (Javascript Remote Scripting) supports PHP. Cool!
09:10 permalink

I've been playing with my new Palm Vx. It is evil. Getting up to speed on the software scene for a whole new platform sucks a lot of time. I've installed as many web browsers as I could and found 2 servers for Palm-OS (though I haven't tested them). I'm also reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and playing the Zork trilogy. Evil, I tell you. Hope the novelty wears off soon and I can get back to normal.
08:45 permalink

05/04/2001 Friday

Webmonkey: Wanna Be a Project Manager? A mostly introductory level article on project management. Introductory level articles, if you are familiar with the topic being covered, rarely contain any startlingly new information. And you would hope that this holds true for everyone who should be familiar with the same topic. But, sometimes, it doesn't work out that way. Case in point: this article mentions two skills that one should look for when hiring Project Managers at a web firm are:

  • Basic knowledge of standard Web tools such as Photoshop, HTML, XML, and other Web software and languages
  • A knowledge of browser work-arounds, and general Web do's and don'ts.

Painfully obvious. But some people who hire for project management positions don't know this. And the people they hire don't know this. It always amazes me when the painfully obvious isn't painfully obvious to the people it should be painfully obvious to. (via Tomalak's Realm)
09:55 permalink

More funny stuff. How to impress a date (you know who) and dogs in elk. (via Good Experience and Memepool)
09:25 permalink

I keep forgetting this so I'm writing it down in the hopes that this'll make me remember: Netscape doesn't let you use the post method on a form using the file:/// protocol. The form just sits there when you try to submit it.
08:45 permalink

Flash on IE PC won't let you attach a get query string to a getURL if you are using the file:/// protocol (accessing stuff locally). Doesn't matter how you try to do it. As soon as you use the http:// protocol, everything works fine. Annoying when you are trying to author locally.
08:40 permalink

05/02/2001 Wednesday

Note to self: Read Salon's Coder on the cross (story about "a programmer loses his health, social life and sense of self" in the pursuit of his job) when I get the time. (via Slashdot)
09:20 permalink

Today is World Phone in Sick Day. Had I known... (via Metafilter)
08:50 permalink

05/01/2001 Tuesday

NS4.x doesn't like positioned elements appearing within <form> tags. As soon as a positioned element is encountered, the form is terminated. Later form elements appear as if the <form> tags weren't there at all - select options and textarea initial text appear in the flow of the document as plain text and all other elements don't show up at all.
10:00 permalink

Listened to an interview on As It Happens last night with an astrophysicist who was trying to explain why the discovery of harmonic resonances in the density spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation was important. As you can probably tell from that sentence, you would first have to explain what "harmonic resonances", "density spectrum" and "cosmic microwave background radiation" are first. But that's almost impossible to do in a short interview. The poor guy didn't have a chance.
09:40 permalink