July 2001

07/31/2001 Tuesday

In NS4.x Mac, positioned elements without an explicit z-index value will appear above elements with higher z-index values if the non-z-index elements appear later in the source code. Ok, so that sentence wasn't very clear. What it means is that you can't always expect the z-index value to default correctly and that, if you assign a z-index value for one element, you should give all elements z-index values.
12:00 permalink

Pop-under ads are showing up on lots of news sites and Yahoo is currently testing them on selected areas of their site. The uncontested king of the pop-under is X10 which, while many people dispute Jupiter Media Metrix's reports on increased traffic for the X10 site and Fucked Company is reporting the company is closing their NJ office and warehouse, other reports state the closure is in preparation to move into a bigger space and the company is doing well. The bottom line is that pop-unders won't be going away. Which got me thinking about ad blocking software (I don't know why I didn't think about this before since the difference between pop-up ad windows and pop-unders is negligable from a technical point of view and pop-ups have been around for a while). I don't actually have any such software installed so I don't really know how it works. But I would imagine that it would have to be very smart in order to tell the difference between a non-ad popup and an ad popup. In fact, it may be impossible. So ad blocking software would probably just prevent all popups. I'm guessing this would be an option that the user could turn on or off. Because pop-unders are so annoying, more people will probably be turning this option on. The moral of the story is: Avoid using popup windows in your site designs. Anyways, I may just be talking out of my ass here so you are welcome to ignore me.
09:45 permalink

Have you ever seen a picture taken half a world away and known exactly where it was shot because you had been to the same spot, seen the same view? In a photo album at home, I have a picture of this view from the road leading to Cape Tribulation in Queensland, Australia. Found in a collection of panoramic pictures. (via milov.nl)
09:10 permalink

07/27/2001 Friday

And while I'm on the subject of print, let me just say that all magazine's suck. "32 ways to lose weight / build muscules / impress him in bed / beautify your home / grow your garden / get ahead at work" Glowing, far from objective reviews of products you have never heard of but must have. More ads than content. Recycled opinions and after-the-fact news. I rarely buy magazines and I always regret it when I do.
09:15 permalink

And while I'm on the subject of print ads, I must say that ads that borrow elements from web browser interfaces suck. Horribly. I'm talking about those ads that have mock browser chrome and a little mouse arrow and who's design is limited to a simple grid layout as is usually the case in table-based web layouts. Design on the web is so woefully limited. It's yearning to be as sophisticated and as flexible as print design. Mimicking web design in print design is like making a tv ad that copies a 30's style radio ad ("Friends, have you tried Fitch's Dandruff Remover Shampoo? Why, it is the best that money can buy...").
09:05 permalink

I recently saw a Bootlegger print ad that used two of the most popular web design motifs: the 45-degree-angle arrow and the guy-riding-an-escalator. That pretty much makes their un-coolness official. Web designers: time to find something new (but equally as superfluous).
08:25 permalink

07/26/2001 Thursday

I seem to remember reading somewhere that CSS identifiers share most of the same rules as Javascript identifiers in that they can consist of a mix of letters and numbers and the first character must be a letter. However, they differ in that underscores aren't allowed. Instead, hyphens should be used whenever you are tempted to use an underscore. Using underscores in class and id names can cause NS4.x to lose the associated styles. The only problem with using hyphens is when you refer to the ids or classes in Javascript since they may be mistakenly interpretted as the subtraction operator. It's important, then, to make sure all references to these identifiers occur in situations where this mis-interpretation won't occur - in array as opposed to object notation. For instance, use document.all['hyphened-name'] instead of document.all.hyphened-name to reference the element with the id hyphened-name in IE4.x. I also seem to recall that only lowercase letters are allowed in identifier names. This would mean that the traditional Javascript style of mixed upper and lowercase for identifier names (uppercase letters being used to denote additional words like in aLongishName) is out. Hyphens then become your only way to maintain readability for long CSS identifiers. Most browsers seem to have no problems with uppercase letters in CSS identifiers, though.
09:40 permalink

Eric Meyer: Correct ordering of link psuedo-classes in stylesheets. (via Little Green Weblog)
09:20 permalink

07/25/2001 Wednesday

Finally something new:
many haiku comments on
MeFi and FC.
14:20 permalink

07/24/2001 Tuesday

Growing up with TVOntario, I saw lots of weird and wonderful tv shorts. Stuff like Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, Hattytown Tales, Ludwig, Willo the Wisp, Doctor Snuggles, Ghosts of Motley Hall, and The Secret Railway (an english translation of Les Voyages De Tortillard). There was also a show about a typist who would have daydreams where his boss was a bad guy and he had to heroically save the other (female) typist from his clutches and would learn a lesson about grammar or punctuation in the end. I have no idea what it was called. I didn't have a very normal childhood. At least by North American standards.
13:00 permalink

07/23/2001 Monday

Once upon a time, I had a chequing account (checking for you Americans). I didn't have it long before someone managed to get their hands on a cancelled cheque. With the account number and my signature, they walked into a bank and made a withdrawl on my account. The bank caught it after the fact and asked me to come down to straighten things out (ie. state that it wasn't my signature). In order to do this, I needed to go to a Notary Public and get his authentication that I was who I said I was. I had never met this guy in my life. I walked into his office with some easily forgable identification and some cash and walked out with his seal of approval on my identity. All this seems so very wrong.
10:50 permalink

Apparently, standard modem connections are limited to 5.5K/s. Due to FCC regulations, a 56kbsp modem is really a 44kbsp modem. (via WebWord)
09:55 permalink

Tim bemoans IE5 Mac's woeful error reporting - errors in external .js files are reported on the wrong line. The same thing happens on the PC. This is one of the two places that NS4.x is actually better than IE: error reports and the special wysiwyg view-source. I've mentioned this breifly before. Error messages in NS4.x correctly report the file that the error occured in whereas IE always reports the .html file as the source of the error. Error messages in NS4.x are also frequently more descriptive than in IE - when I encounter a generic "Object expected" error in IE, I'll open the same file in NS4 for a more descriptive message. The wysiwyg view-source occurs when a page contains dynamic content that is written into the page with a script. Viewing the source from either the menubar or from the right-click contextual menu gives you the post-parsed source (the source written out by the code). You can get the real source by prepending "view-source:" to the url in the location bar. Comparing the two will often help you figure out where an ellusive error has occured.
09:45 permalink

07/20/2001 Friday

Conditional HTML comments make me leary. Netscape also supports conditional comments but in a different form. (via milov.nl)
10:35 permalink

More Javascript maintenance woes. A while ago, my javascript rollover script had function names like rollon() and rolloff() (later changed to rolloverOn() and rolloverOff() to avoid namespace problems with other rollover scripts - the names aren't neccessarily more descriptive but do include the name of the .js file in them). So when I encountered the same names in code for a site I am updating, I assumed they were the same functions. I agree that rollon() is a pretty standard name for a function that performs rollovers of some kind so my assumption could have been invalid. But they were defined in a rollover.js file and the initialization of the rollovers was done in the same way I do it. So I was confused when my new rollovers didn't work when I used rollon() and rolloff(). It took me a while to figure out that, though the two functions were based on my original code, they had been changed slightly. So I copied over my new rolloverOn() and rolloverOff() functions and called them instead. The moral of the story is don't change the behaviour of existing code unless you are the maintainer of that code. Changing code messes with people's expectations built with prior experience with the code. If you want to change existing code to do something else, make a copy of the code, rename the functions, and make your change. The only exception to this rule is bug fixes where you are bring the code more into line with expectations. A corollary to this rule is don't make additions to library files. When I opened rollover.js, I found that it had become a repository for all of the project-specific javascript code. I try to keep javascript libraries in separate files so that they can be easily updated on existing projects - bug fixes can be quickly applied to current working fil es by over-writing the project file with the new one. All project-specific code should be put into one or more separate .js files. I always use a file called global.js as my repository for project-specific code.
10:00 permalink

Sign at Lytton gas stationOn the northern outskirts of Lytton, just over the Thompson River Bridge on the way to Lillooet, is a gas station that appears to have changed little (at least from the outside) since the 1940's. The best part about it is the huge welcoming-gas-attendant-in-uniform sign. Update: That faint horn coming out of the side of the gas attendant's head isn't in the photo. How Fortean!
09:00 permalink

Getting sent lots of virii recently. They are all variations on the same theme and are accompanied by the following message:

Hi! How are you?

I send you this file in order to have your advice

See you later. Thanks

(Or the spanish equivalent). The name of the attachment varies. Even the extension varies. Neat. Update: It's the W32.Sircam.Worm@mm worm. Article at Wired.
08:50 permalink

07/19/2001 Thursday

Dithered fulified. (via MetaFilter)
09:15 permalink

Entrepreneur.com: Can You Lead by Listening? In a recent company workshop to introduce a new employee review process, one of the points brought up was that a recent survey of IT employees (but this is probably more widely applicable) found that the most important aspect of a work environment was "supportive and effective management". This means management that is not only solicits the ideas and concerns of their employees but actually listens to them. Responds with their own fact-supported opinions. Strives to reach a consensus. Responds to all communication with the same degree of attentiveness and a positive attitude. And, as in most things, perception of actions are more important that the actual actions - make it obvious that you are listening and responding. If I don't perceive that you are listening to me, I will stop talking to you and that most fundamental of business requirements - communication - will stop. Communication is more than talking - it requires comprehension and allows response. This article strikes home for me right now. (via bBlog)
08:50 permalink

07/18/2001 Wednesday

Blogger Template Design Winners. How to design for lots of text content by example. I was hoping for a couple less rectangular-based designs. (via MetaFilter)
12:20 permalink

Wired Microsoft: XP Will Be Java-Less. You will need to manually download additional components from the Microsoft site in order to provide Java support. Microsoft reports that this move is being made in order to comply with a recent legal settlement with Sun. They also state that Java "represents a lot of code that the vast majority of users don't need" (compared to the bloat of Windows, Java is teeny). This means that Java applets will no longer be a viable option on websites.
10:15 permalink

Openwave: Top 10 Usability Guidelines for WAP Applications. (via Webword)
10:05 permalink

I like Javascript. But one of the concerns I have about it is that it is easy to write bad code in Javascript (granted, not as easy as Perl). By bad code, I mean code that works but is almost impossible to decipher. I am currently working with some old code like this. No comments, badly named functions and variables, tons of branching, indentation that doesn't correctly reflect the logical structure of the code. If Javascript were more like Java, these problems probably wouldn't be as bad. I'm not saying you can't write bad code in Java but I find the strictness of the syntax and the lexicon almost force you to be a better coder. You'd feel guilty writing bad code in a language like Java. Of course, one of the reasons Javascript isn't more like Java is that it keeps the learning barrier low and allows a broader acceptance of the language - especially amongst people who have no formal programming background. Which is probably why there is so much bad Javascript code out there. As a side note, I wonder if there is less of an emphasis on maintainable code because it is assumed that the lifetime of code is much shorter on the web.
10:00 permalink

Build a better style guide (pdf). Style guides can be useful. Instead of just a designer's plaything. (via Noise Between Stations)
09:30 permalink

07/17/2001 Tuesday

How to hide CSS from buggy browsers. (via CamWorld)
08:35 permalink

07/16/2001 Monday

A history of SCTV. They say that the show never mentioned whether Floyd Robertson (the news reporter) and Count Floyd (horror show host) were the same person but I remember an episode where Floyd was retiring and showed up to do the news report drunk, with his slicked back hair makeup still on and doing his trademark Count Floyd howl to off-camera encouragement. I liked SCTV. (via Memepool)
16:00 permalink

For Christmas, Sherry got me one of those windup radios. The concept behind them is great - no more batteries. And seeing as we don't have a tv, radio becomes one of our main home entertainment options. On the box, it said something like "Winds in seconds, plays for hours!" Well, it does take only 30 seconds to wind up. But the "hours" works out to about 20-30 minutes if you keep the volume low enough that it can't be heard in another room. If you wind it many times in succession, you'd probably get a couple hours out of it. You can also charge the battery through solar power but living in a dark ground-level apartment in rainy Vancouver means the sun isn't very reliable. So I have come to accept having to frequently wind the radio. Until this morning when the winding mechanism went haywire and the elastic that transfers the power to the battery flew off and wrapped around the transfer gears. This company seems to have a patent or something on this wind-up / solar radio business. One of the problems with patents is that they encourage shoddy implementations of innovative technology. A wind-up radio should run for longer than 20 minutes and shouldn't self-destruct after 6 months. But it did and there's no other alternative products. Unless you know of any - let me know and I'll post them here.
10:35 permalink

Apparently, there is a bug in IE5 Mac that screws up the dynamic writing of tables (using innerHTML). Whitespace added to the output string after the </table> tag will give the correct output. (via Eric Costello on the webdesign-l list)
09:30 permalink

07/13/2001 Friday

My new quote: "I cut myself on the bleeding edge of technology." Sang's reply: "Code Blue - Stat! We got a bleeder here!"
16:35 permalink

Remember that rumour about Chelsea Clinton recording a DYI album? Here's the article that started it all.
13:55 permalink

Anyone remember the differences between HTML 1.0 and HTML 2.0? I can't really find any details about HTML 1.0. Just design limitations. The first DTD I can find is from May 1995 and it seems to be an HTML 1.0 DTD with some additional features. But it was released after the original test spec had expired so probably included elements from HTML+. An overview of HTML+ does include some indications of differences between HTML+ and the earlier HTML 1.0. Some of these differences (forms) were introduced in the first official specification - HTML 2.0. Stuff like tables had to wait until the short-lived HTML 3.0 spec which never reached official standard status before being abandoned for HTML 3.2. Update: This history of HTML 2.0 contains a little information about the "conformance levels" (the numbers of the specifications indicate the conformance level of the standard as opposed to a version number) and what was included in each level. It also refers to a draft document written in June 1993 by Tim Berners-Lee and Dave Raggett for "Hypertext Markup Language, Ver 1.0." but I can't find it anywhere. Odd.
11:35 permalink

07/11/2001 Wednesday

$100 bucks for a lemonade stand!? I'd never buy lemonade from such a slick-looking stand. It has to be a cardboard box. Or a wagon. Surrounded by four bikes, two balls, several buckets and possibly one dog. Run by at least two kids and three younger siblings. Who end up drinking all the lemonade. And if they do have any left over for paying customers, three of the kids have to try pouring it and then fight over the money. Lemonade stands are all about nostalgia, not making money.
11:20 permalink

Pirated Sites - screenshots of sites that have stolen the code and / or design from other sites.
10:55 permalink

Excerpt from a backpack manufacturer's disclaimer:

Backpacking is an inherently dangerous activity that can result in discomfort, injury, or death.

Part of the joy of backpacking is avoiding the discomfort, injury, or death. The challenge is to do it better every time. It's kinda like working on websites - with every project, you face challenges and you try solutions to problems. You learn how to Do Things Better and you incorporate what you learn into your bag of tricks for the next project. When you stop learning, every project feels the same and you lose your passion. There's two ways this can happen:

  • There is nothing left to learn. In an industry that changes as fast as ours, this will never happen.
  • Problems that you can't solve by yourself prevent you from solving those problems that you can solve. This will happen in a team environment when there are no processes in place to govern workflow, communication, etc. You spend most of your time coping with the lack of procedure and have no time to solve problems. It's disheartening seeing the same solvable problems cropping up over and over again but not being able to do anything about them.

Update: I'm rather impressed by that segue.
10:20 permalink

07/10/2001 Tuesday

Brent finds that working as an independent contractor insulates him from marketingspeak. This makes a lot of sense. As an independent contractor, you can pick who is on your side (as it were). So you find someone who will start your relationship with your future client with normal language. The two sides communicate with each other. So when it comes time for them to talk to you, you already know what they need and they are used to talking normally.
16:30 permalink

The recent general panning of marketing lingo (see the comments on the KnowHow site from Brent and Joel) has made me think if those who are leary of marketing respect the marketing (or similar) department in the companies they work for.
10:00 permalink

Evolt: An Introduction to HTML Email. From an authoring point of view.
08:50 permalink

07/09/2001 Monday

Assembler is gone. Much discussion on Metafilter. Interesting reactions - some people feel ripped off. Gentle reader, there will come a time when I will be sick of all of this and will become an apricot farmer or something and this site will disappear. Please don't be pissed when it happens. Ah, what the hell, be pissed. I won't know or care on my apricot farm.
09:30 permalink

Saw Dark Days last night. Very good. I'm a sucker for documentary-style movies. Saw one a couple years ago about people who "rode the rails" in the 30's. One guy still did - took a couple weeks each year to ride up and down the California coast. Update: Name of the movie was Riding The Rails.
09:00 permalink

Rumour has it that Macromedia, who recently acquired Allaire, is killing JRun. Might want to move to Resin. (via Fucked Company)
08:55 permalink

It's always cool to see someone using my code. But it's not cool when that code seems to be causing errors. But it works for me...
08:50 permalink

07/06/2001 Friday

Many squirrel-related posts on Metafilter yesterday.
09:30 permalink

07/05/2001 Thursday

Some talk of branding at PeterMe, Elegant Hack, and others. I like this definition:

brand (noun) = promised user experience. always superceded by actual user experience.

Then, today I was reading a NYTimes article (sorry, no link) about employers developing a brand amongst employees (also known as "corporate culture"). Seems to me that since the actual user experience supercedes the promised user experience, this type of branding will fail - employees already have a real user experience with the employer. Trying to create a corporate culture will be met with resistance by employees. Encouraging an existing culture is the best you can do. It's more effective to change the real user experience. As a side note, this reminds me of something I read in a Doonesbury cartoon. People don't like being bribed. Bribing implies a lack of intelligence. Blackmail is much better. Ok, that seems to be coming out of left field but it suddenly struck me as true. I'll stop now.
10:40 permalink

Yesterday, I was looking up various internet consulting firms on The Standard's Company Index. I didn't know what category they would all be in but I did know some examples of what I was looking for. So I used the search to find one example and then the hierarchical navigation to go up one level to the category. Turns out that they were spread over a number of categories but it was a reminder that this is one mode of searching that users use - specific to more general. Always provide a way to access the general from the specific.
09:00 permalink

So I'm reading an article about the recent popularity of the Atari 2600 in the AvantGo version of Salon and I try to find the same article online. Can't. It's not on the technology page (it's the only technology article in the mobile version) and it doesn't show up in a search (incidentally, the sort by date feature in the search doesn't sort by date). Now I can understand it if the mobile version had less articles (and / or shorter versions of articles) than the online version. But why would you have completely different content. It's not like they are offering content and tasks specific oriented for a mobile device. So the upshot of all this is that I'd like to link to the article but I can't. You'll have to install AvantGo, subscribe to the Salon channel and find the article for yourself. But don't bother. Play some Space Invaders instead.
08:55 permalink