Archive for the ‘Old’ Category

Wish List

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

What follows is a general list of items I want. My friends and family can use it for birthdays and Christmases.
I’ll keep it up-to-date as I think of new things, or as I get them.

  1. Tim Minchin is a refreshing mix of comedy, intelligence, emotion, and offensiveness.
  2. I’d really love a 160-lumen 1-watt version of the flashlight I have now, but it seems nearly impossible to find something like that.
  3. Black liquorice! There are so many different kinds.
  4. Instruments, including violin, flute, and theremin. These can all be rather expensive, so I really don’t expect them. I’ve also got a thrifty flute for practicing, so that’s good enough for now.

Internet Explorer Drama… 9.0!

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

With the latest IE9 announcements, designers and developers have been going mad with what one might call Internet Explosion.

Stuff like the following: (not real quotes; just paraphrasings)
“No!!11 Just stop developing IE!”
“Only Acid3 score of 55/100? Other browsers did that YEARS ago!”
“It’ll be five years behind!”
“We’ll have to support FOUR browsers!”
“Why don’t you use webkit; Trident is dead.”

People are proving to be extremely closed-minded about IE. What I find very ironic is that a lot of them say things like, “MS, stop developing IE!”
That happened. They stopped after IE6, right at the end of the Dark Ages. And you see what life became?

About five years later, they picked up the pieces and race to bring IE into the future. IE7 is still annoying, but IE8 (released in early 2009) is a perfectly good browser for its time. IE9 should be competitive, with basically everything being clamoured for today.

A few misconceptions

There have been a host of ill-conceived arguments. I’m just going to list every correction I can think of:

  • Acid3 has little to do with compatibility. It tests edge cases, in a sort of wish-list for developers. It can be important for high-level cross-browser online applications, but you really wouldn’t tell a difference between browsers in a regular web-page.
  • Firefox has historically had a fairly ‘low’ Acid3 score, with 71 in Fx 3.0. The Firefox team has even said something like, “We aren’t going to bend over backwards for it, because it’s not really what we’re aiming for.”
  • IE8 is soaking up both IE6 and IE7; and you don’t have to ‘support’ IE8 in the same ways as IE6 and IE7, any more than you have to ‘support’ Firefox or Safari or Chrome. Things tend to test pretty well in them, by default. IE9 will be similar.
  • There is a non-negligible percentage of users on Firefox 2, Firefox 3, and Firefox 3.5. Nobody is complaining about supporting four different versions of Firefox. Thankfully, Fx2 is almost dead.
  • Even two years ago, CSS3 was nearly unheard of, and nothing had HTML5 features. Now a browser with border-radius and HTML5 video is five years behind?
    The things we’ll be deciding in the next year likely won’t find their way into the final release of IE9; but CSS3, HTML5, SVG, and various other standards we never ever expected to find in IE are already there, with more to be added. It’s coming along.
  • Actually, IE9’s current compatibility score, as counted by the When Can I Use charts, is similar right now to Firefox 3.0’s July 2008 release — less than two years behind, in the context of every toy we’re asking for as developers.
  • Trident is fine. When we speak of the Trident layout engine today, and we’re talking about IE9, then we’re talking about Trident in IE9, and that’s a perfectly fine engine. Overall, it’ll be lacking some features, but will not be holding itself together with duct-tape and paper-clips. There’s a difference.
  • As a company, Microsoft has gone through some huge changes in its history. The Internet Explorer development team isn’t the same team who gave us IE6. Don’t harass them (the development team) for things they couldn’t have possibly helped.

Almost every current browser team has its demons to face. IE is no different, but we should look to the future with optimism. Help where we can, and condemn where we must, but don’t frivolously argue about things that aren’t relevant to today.

And maybe help IE6 along by preaching Progressive Enrichment, hmm?

Your First Web Site

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Does anyone remember their first web-site?

No, not the first site you built; I mean the first you ever saw. It’s so completely commonplace and so far in our past that no-one ever thinks of it, but it must have been a pretty special event, when you get right down to it.

When I tried to remember, I thought back to the first computer I’d ever played with, and how it had that oddly-annoying “Please wait a moment” message. What’s a moment, anyway? I was only six years old.

I can’t remember the first computer I saw with internet, but I suppose it was one of the brand-new computers our lab was furnished with in our little village school in Vermillion Bay, Ontario.

I suppose, having been introduced to the computers and the internet, the first pages I visited would have been video-game-related.

Netbands? Armbooks?

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Imagine you were in the coffee shop, waiting on a friend. You decide to check your email. You put your coffee down, and press a button on the armband covering your arm from the wrist to the elbow. The screen uncurls from your arm, revealing a keyboard. You press the mail icon, and see a note from your friend that they’re running a bit late.

The technology for this is here, today. It’s possible to find slightly curved screens, despite the popularity of flat screens. The thinnest netbook screens on the market today are so thin you can bend them a considerable amount. By combining the two, you could have a screen that folds over your arm and snaps into place.

However, I can’t see it being manufactured for a few reasons:

  • I’ve never seen rounded or curved motherboards, so existing fabrication methods wouldn’t be adequate.
  • Big armband things are gaudy. There’s no way we could convince everyone it’s a trendy thing to wear.
  • The screen would have to be well protected. Arms get bumped by things all day, and something worn on the body will be crushed without thinking about it.
  • There’s no way to make it two-handed, so it’ll be a one-handed device only. That’ll make it hard for people to type on for any length of time.

URL Shortening Tour

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Have you ever wanted a tour of some of the top URL shortening services? Take this short safari and sit back as you visit fifteen different shortening services!

Watch it carefully, because some go by very quickly.
Take the tour

(Used:,, notlong, metamark, snipurl, socuteurl,,,,, icanhaz, ohurl, tinyurl,,


Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Twitter is down. Again.

This brings me to certain trains of thought: How would a decentralized Twitter work? How can it be implemented? What kind of new-age acronym/abbreviation can we use to describe such a decentralized service?

A ‘DeCent’ service isn’t controlled by any one company, with all that entails. Some friends may be cut off from the rest for a period, but the only way the entire service could be shut down is to take the entire internet offline, and then it would still be possible to connect to others in an intranet. That’s a very powerful concept.
As well, you could make certain tweaks on your own, so you can have any interface you want. As long as the data going out is the same, and as long as you parse the incoming data in the same way, you can choose what you want to do with everything else. You can keep a backlog or you can throw everything away without storing anything.

Here’s how the DeCenTweet would work: You take the Twitter API, and create your own implementation of it. Your program would send out a packet of data indistinguishable from a Twitter tweet. Many of these programs already exist in clients like TweetDeck, Seesmic, Twitteriffic, and many more. Such an implementation would be modified to post to your own database, instead of Twitter’s. Instead of making an API call to Twitter, you’ll instead have a list of Following, each with their own URL. The client would check each in turn, updating your stream accordingly.

Speed would be of the essence. When you have a few hundred people pinging your server every half a minute, you’ll need to be able to serve the data near-instantly.

I think I’ll try to create an implementation and see how it works.

Before and After

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

I just went through my archives, because I wanted to see what happened when in my development of The Embroidery House.

This image [2022×372, 213KB] is a string of all backups, generally made after a big night of fiddling around with things. usually gets backed up once a month, it seems, and has also come a long way.

The Embroidery House creation, from left to right:

  1. February 11th: This was actually a rough draft, which was only meant to show the functionality behind what I was doing: using a primitive AJAX form to load the clothing from an XML file. I got carried away, and tried to make everything look like stitches. Most everything had custom padding or margin, and almost all the style was inline. At this point, I was still mainly a programmer who did web stuff on the side.
  2. February 23rd: Having finished the AJAX, I decided to try beautifying it up. This wasn’t my first day with this design, but I don’t have backups of the other days. Basically, I decided that the site should be sporty, and sporty sites always had bold reds or blues, and usually whites. I wanted to give the site a textured feel, as if it were made of fabric. On February 19th, I had my Great Epiphany and became a web designer/developer. On the same night, I discovered transparency and abused it about as much as you’d expect someone to abuse something he just found. The logo suddenly looked like a watermark, which was appealing to me, but then I was trying to make practically everything transparent, and it just didn’t work. I was going to put a fading-transparent set of coat-hangers in the corner, so be thankful I didn’t. At about this time, I had discovered Doug Bowman’s A List Apart article called Sliding Doors of CSS, at just that point where I was experimenting with making my links more like buttons.
  3. March 4th: I eventually decided that the last style was so disgusting and unforgivable that I scrapped the entire thing and started from scratch (except the styles set up to lay out the clothing). I settled on a minimalist approach, to really bring out the soft cream of the fabric in the background. I made the main navigation blue, because red just seemed stupid. I also made a bit of javascript that loaded up a Google Maps window if you clicked on the address, which I was kind of proud about. My client had finally given me the text for his logo, which I used in a sort of banner text.
  4. March 10th: A week later, not much had changed. I had fixed up the styles a bit, and made the items look more individual. I started working on the UI, so that the site would be actually usable. Some things got re-written, as well.
  5. March 24th: My client finally got an idea of what he wanted the site to look like, and drew up a plan. He wanted sky above, with the menu above the main content area, and a sidebar for showing new items. I chose some colours quickly, but things ended up looking a bit aquarian. I ended up completely changing the style. I was in the middle of converting the pages to PHP, which finished a few days afterwards.
  6. August 2nd: There were other steps in-between, but few of them are stye-based. I went through a phase where there were trees in the sidebar, but the client didn’t like it. I photographed the sky and took samples from that, so the tones should be far truer. I tried to give a gradient feel, to replicate the gradients of the sky. I also tried to keep the images small, to fit with all screen sizes. At some point, I filled the sidebar, redid the copy on most of the pages, consolidated those extra pages (like About and Contact) to a small toolbar in the corner, and added a miniscule floating footer. I redid the entire clothing system to run with php, from a database, and added the options to filter those. I’ve got to add sorting, sometime. At the moment, you can sign in, browse clothing, select the one you want, and add it to a cart. I’ve also added a forum, though it’s yet to be used. I also haven’t actually changed it for about a month, so it’s really more like July 2nd.

Quite a list! I think, if the entire project were to be erased, I’d be able to get everything back up the way it was in a little over one month. At the moment, I’m waiting on the client to finish a list of chores he needs to do to complete the site. I’ve been doing logo work for him, in the interim.

WhatWG Twitter account

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

We woke up today with a strange message from the @WHATWG twitter account: “fuck off”

There was some astonishment and a couple of small giggles, but I think we largely ignored it. Later, though, we got a few more strange entries.
I think some kid somewhere had stumbled upon the form, which was located on the front page of Just on the front page, with no password.

UI Fail to the extreme.

Anyway, there was a slew of messages as friends contacted friends and everyone realized they could tweet from the WHATWG twitter account. John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory proved true. Almost everyone who posted to the account sounded like ten-year-olds.

There were a few gems in the pile, though:

  • We’re scrapping HTML5 in favor of HTML 4.5, a more modest update to the spec. Look for it this fall.
  • The HXTML 2.0 spec has been finalized with only one tag which is <text>.
  • <audio><video><disco>
  • Considering an <o rly=”ya”> tag.
  • Won’t someone please think of the children?!
  • My name is Robert’; DROP TABLE students;
  • </html> tag replaced with </kthnxbai>
  • Hello. I am WHATWG and I am EXCELLENT
  • WHATWG announce working group on emoticons. Homer says (_8(|) ~doh!

After ten minutes, it seems they ran out of API. Now it’s starting up again.
I’ve emailed Hixie, but I’ve no clue when he’ll wake up.

The @WHATWG channel started with over 1307 followers, and have since dropped to 1255.

More news in the future!

More as they come.

  • WHATWG to start work on “Bible5”
  • Trapped in twitter factory, send help!

Followers: 1207. I believe this will continue every hour until someone changes the site.

More edit:
This from the IRC channel:
# [16:33] <beowulf> i say abused, i think it’s important that people buy viagra
# [16:34] <gsnedders|work> Are we going to have to get “I abused @WHATWG” t-shirts
# [16:34] <miketaylr> I’ll take a size M
# [16:36] <Lachy> beowulf, did you really tweet about viagra on @whatwg?
# [16:36] <gsnedders|work> Someone did.
# [16:36] * gsnedders|work glares
# [16:36] <miketaylr> the twitter status is about to hit critical mass a la reply-all ‘stop hitting reply-all’
# [16:37] <svl> The follower count is going into freefall

Edit (19:00GMT):
After another round of spamming, which seems to have left them with 1166 followers, several measures have been taken. Everyone started spamming Twitter’s @spam account with details about the spam, I flooded @WHATWG with wrong passwords — which locked the account — and others mentioned in the IRC that they disabled the form.
So, it appears to be over.

CSSquirrel should do a comic on this! It was epic!

Browsers: Best of

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

For posterity, I’ve decided to make a list of all the features browsers have that should be mimicked in all those other browsers. Keep in mind that some have duplicates, just so I didn’t have to add additional ‘combination’ entries. Anything missing would be welcome.

  • IE8: Hideable menu bar, Web Slices, Accelerators, Tab Isolation, Compatibility View, Offline Mode
  • Firefox: Extensions, Offline Mode
  • Chrome: ‘Application’ interface, Full-Themed (no native title bar), Start Page, Tab Isolation,
  • Safari: Document Inspector
  • Opera: Mouse Gestures
  • Others:


Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Today, I worked all day on a redesign. The old one was just killing me, because I was doing a couple things wrong and the entire thing had kind of crystallized.

I started this one off fresh, with a clean copy of the default theme. I decided I was going to change as little as possible: I moved the sidebar to the top of the code, added some meta-data specific to my site, and changed some of the verbose garbage they spew out when you get to the end of a post, but I otherwise kept it as similar as possible. No new tags for styling, and I used the names the default theme uses.
I think I’ll take out a couple dummy elements that I didn’t have a use for, though.

Overall, I hope this design looks a little fresher and less cobbled together. Instead of relying on each paragraph having a container class to give it padding, I’ve built it into the table. I’m not using really weird column floating, and my stretch-to-bottom works without using infinite negative margins (those things are a nightmare in IE7).

I had to think a while on the best way to store the files. I’m using WordPress, so the themes are stored deeply in some sub-sub-sub-directories. I was wondering if I could just point the themes to the main folder, but eventually decided to keep CSS and CSS-based images in the theme folder, with everything else in the root.
WordPress uses the root (or rather, which ever directory you specify as WordPress’es root) as the context, and travels from there to find images. CSS, however, always travels from the CSS document. If you keep images in an ‘images’ folder and CSS in a ‘css’ folder, you’d reference ‘images/image.png’ from your code and ‘../images/image.png’ from your CSS.
Since everything but the CSS was working from the top level, I decided to keep everything but the CSS right there.

So I think I’ve got a less hackety them, now. Maybe it’s time for Cozy Cabbage to get a makeover?

Oh! Adding tags on a new post works again, now. I was having difficulties.