Archive for June, 2009

Just Some Updates

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I’m going to have to integrate Captchas into my sites, soon. I’ve lately been the target for ever-blooming waves of spammers. I came back from five days of vacation to inboxes (inboxi?) that each had twenty pieces of spam, where I’d usually get about three. One inbox was spam comments to this blog, while the other was an abused form at my Cozy Cabbage site.

In other news, mobile internet, from whichever carrier, seems to have periods where pages just won’t load. MTS is giving me a hard time and failed pages, while Rogers usually lets me get through if I only load one page at a time.
On the topic of mobile internet, I was able to check my routes with Google Maps from my cellphone while I was on the road between provinces. I love cacheable maps, too, because you can then check them anytime. What I hate about the app on my phone, though, is that if you’re looking through the cached maps and find a patch that needs to be downloaded, the application will quit if you don’t allow it to connect. Considering that I switch my phone’s SIM card with my mobile modem’s, I’d have to do some juggling to allow it to download (because otherwise I’ll be paying a few dollars to download a patch of map).
I also discovered that my phone is nearly useless at browsing webpages, and completely useless at signing in or logging on. I guess it was a little $60 thing, but still. I think I want an iPhone, sometime.

I only have 150 new feed items, which isn’t bad. I’ll get through that in a couple days.

Why am I throwing you all this relatively-uninteresting stuff about my weekend? Because I’ve been busy, and I’ll continue to be busy for the next few days, and so I’m just updating on anything that might be somewhat tech-related. I have no clue when I’ll start getting work done again, but at least I’ve been living cheaply on other peoples’ food!
I got a good deal of advice from some family members, as well as a connection from a Second Cousin (his cousin’s husband, or something like that, from the Netherlands).

So, within the next few hours/days, I plan on dramatically expanding on things like usability on my site. Also, while reading back entries at Burningbird’s RealTech, I saw it mentioned that I can include inline SVG on documents sent as xml (obviously). So I’m going to have to try that. Object, embed, and img don’t really cut it. I’m also going to have to try percentages again.
I’ve realized that I did use-cases in college. I was busy with other courses, so I didn’t pay attention in that one, and I didn’t even realize it until I read the word ‘actors’ on another site. Luckily, I still have my course files.

Morse Twitter

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’ve had an idea!
Imagine setting up something like a bluetooth headset, except it’s an armband (or whatever) and taps out Morse code, instead.
Your phone can keep a cue of the latest tweets, convert them to Morse code, and then tell the device to tap out each onto whatever body surface you attach it to.

There’s a hitch, of course: few people know Morse code. Still, goes to show that it’s still a feasible communication medium, even today!

Imagine sitting there, staring into space. Your friend asks, “Were you even listening to me?” And you’ll say, “Oh, sorry, no. I was reading my tweets.”

I’m sure some sort of device with a belt could be loosely attached to the finger, and with a signal could run the belt around and cause bumps to appear in certain places, which might give the illusion of reading braille. I’m not sure if that might be faster/more pleasant, as I’m sure more people read braille.
I’m sure there are electronic braille devices around, but I’ve never heard of anything portable.

You know what? Braille is just a different alphabet. I’m sure it would be easy to learn. I’ve got to find a tutorial somewhere.

Look to your Future Success

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

@missrogue posed the question, “Now, if you were to look into the future and see your success, what would that look like?” and also, “Feel free to actually write blog posts about this topic, too. 😉 ”

I’ve read somewhere that humans are only truly capable of looking ahead about three years. If these last three years are any indication, I’d say that’s completely true. I’d never have guessed I’d be where I am now, doing what I’m doing now, except in the vaguest sense.
So what would my success look like? It depends on how long that would take!

Lately, time seems to go fast, and progress is slow. And yet, when I look back on each month, I see that I have made progress. It was only a month ago that I got my domain, created and printed my business card, and basically decided on my branding.
Even then, I only truly became a web designer/developer in mid-February when, on a whim, I looked at the CSS Zen Garden again, and actually read all that stuff around it. I found Doug Bowman’s article about his Garden entry, and found myself at his site. I can hardly remember what I felt, back then, but I was inspired. I don’t think I had ever made a PNG with an alpha layer, at that point, and stole that giant pencil on his site to do some experiments.
From there, I found his articles on A List Apart, tried the Sliding Doors of CSS on the site I was making, and the rest is history.

Events like that come on a whim, and change the entire course of your life. You can’t prepare for them, and you can’t predict them.

If I was to look at my future and see my success, then, I suppose it would be after another of these moments, or maybe two — because it’s not just me, and my success, that truly makes my success. Tara made a great point about her son: “Third part of my success is to see my son go on and want to make the world a better place, too.”
I’m only 22 (I swear, I have to do some math everytime I try to remember that), and I’ve got years and years to raise a family.

So, time for some bullet points:

  • Find true love(s)
  • Raise children who go on to make a difference
  • Learn the basics of each of the technologies of the web
  • Work with some of the brightest minds
  • Advance the web to new heights
  • Make that crazy house I’ve been planning since high-school
  • Finish writing my books
  • Make it somewhere on the best-seller list
  • Help technological progress by implementing new things (computer clothing: It’s about time, isn’t it?)

Of course, not all of that is completely important, but they’re all markers. We’ll see how far I’ll get.

One more thing:
When I turned twenty, I wrote a lengthy letter to myself, to be opened when I turn 40. The letter contains my hopes, dreams, and current ambitions, and asks some questions of my future self. I have no doubt I’ll read it with no small amount of embarrassment at how naive I was. I’ve already forgotten what I wrote in that letter.

In a Slump? Try Something New!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

It seems to have been a week since I posted. I suppose I could have managed to post something, but I was busy and I don’t think I’d really done anything new.

Everyone has slumps, and you’ve kind of got to ride them out. Try to work on whatever, or catch up on things you’ve missed while the slump has a hold of you.

This week, I’ve got a renewed energy. I’ve been reading the W3C SVG spec, and may have learnt enough to make something with it. I copied the text of the spec into a text file, then put that file on my Nintendo DS to read while I was out camping.
Here’s a little note for the frugal types, who can’t afford a $200 smartphone with the extra thousand or two you’ll have to pay out for a three-year contract: I got a Nintendo DS Lite, back in October when they were $129.99, open-case for $114.99 or so. I got a flashcart, which you can use to apply your own programs, and a microSD to put into the flashcart. You could get that whole setup for as little as $160. You can download a few programs, which would give you access to Google Maps (cacheable for offline viewing), let you write text documents, and let you read ebooks, among other things. The DS has built in speakers, two screens (one of them a touch screen) that fold up in a protective and small clamshell, wifi (though restricted), up to twenty hours of battery life, up to 16GB storage, and a couple other goodies. In short, it’s rather flexible.

I copied the SVG spec into a unicode text document, loaded it onto my microSD, and read it throughout camping. I also have some back-dated entries of a few blogs I’m following, so I can read back into 2007 or so while I have free time, as well as the recently-released Taking your Talent to the Web.
I’ll end up putting a tutorial for getting started with your DS in the Homebrew section of this site, sometime later. Needless to say, it was a great investment.
So I was carrying it around in my pocket all weekend, and managed to read about a third of the SVG spec over the course of four days. I’ve learned how to write the doctype and xmlns from memory, and I’ve learned about some of the elements and attributes used. I’m going to try my hand at it in just a few hours.

Before that, I’ve got a couple job leads. There’s a place about a twenty-minute walk from where I live, and that looks promising. I’ll ask them for advice and make some contact, though I’m not sure I can give up the freelancing life. I just love the freedom to work through the night at wake up at 8:00pm. I don’t know if there’s a single hour, now that I haven’t woken up in. When you wake up at 10:00pm, there’s just something inside you that leaps in joy.

Anyway, I’ve got a bit of a fresh start. Still looking for clients, but it may be time to bump my initial $50/week pittance to a realistic $100/week. If I could get a few full-time clients, I could be making a comfortable amount.
The price, really, depends on efficiency. Build Internet’s post on the issue really hits the nail on the head, when it comes to hourly (or per-period) wages:
20 hours x $30 = $600
10 hours x $60 = $600
If I can work faster, I can fit more clients in while they can get a product faster (without actually paying more). Just to see, I should try to completely recode my February client’s site, to see how long it takes me. If I can redo it in a couple weeks, it’ll really say something about how far I’ve come, because it took about two months of solid work to put together.


Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I’m in a bit of a slump. I think I managed a fair bit last week, but this week I just don’t know what to do with myself.
There are a couple of things I need to do, here and there, but the most important thing for me to do is to put myself out there and find clients. The task seems so nebulous, though, that I have no clue where to start.

I’ve got things I could learn (I’ve been meaning to start on SVG and RDFa), or I could continue learning about PHP, but both of those leave me just sitting here in a self-contained environment.

So there it is: I’ve got to pay attention to the funding pipelines I’ve got access to (namely, logo work with my existing client for his clients), and get on the ball for other leads.
I’ve been meaning to talk to Modern Earth, a local web design business, but I haven’t yet been successful in reaching them.
I’ve already gotten someone working on a new Cozy Cabbage for my web site, instead of my horrible fuzz-filtered cabbage (which everyone complains looks pixelated).
I’ve got some documents about a business plan, and had just started reading them, but then I went through a massive desktop switcharound, which left me distracted for a few days. I’ve been getting back up to pace, now, so I can get back to work.

Mainly, I’ve got to limit my time spent on other things. I’ll check all my emails and visit my online things and even read through all my blogs quickly, but then I’ll somehow pitter around for another four hours.
As the day wears on, time goes faster. I’ll get a whole bunch done in the first four hours, and then suddenly eight more hours go by without me noticing. Suddenly, every time I look at the clock two hours have gone by.
I’ve got to recognize that point where everything starts to speed up, and focus on some sort of technique to slow it down again. Awareness?
Maybe I’ll make myself another tea.

Yeah, I think I feel a lot better. Many thanks to Sushi Monster for these lovely photos. She was right: they made me smile, and got me out of a negative mindset.


Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Ha ha! Beautiful quote:

Let me put it another way. Your Fonts are superior to Our Fonts in every conceivable way, except one:

So true! I haven’t started using font-face, yet, because I’m only just getting into typography, but I’ve already run into times where the font I’m using on my computer isn’t standard, and so I have to either choose another or hope some users have it.
All we need are a few good free fonts. One of the annoyances of current free fonts is that they’re either all the same (ever so slight differences), or completely out there (completely unusable for print).

So everyone, go get Fontin!

Opera says Microsoft EU browser offer”not enough”

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Microsoft’s abrupt reversal comes shortly before the European Commission is due to rule on antitrust charges brought against Microsoft in January, claiming that Microsoft abuses its dominant position by bundling its Internet Explorer browser, shielding it from head-to-head competition with rival products.

Everytime I mention Opera, I’ll add in something like, “the poor thing,” because it’s constantly held at about 1%-2% or so. I’d never imagined they might be jealous of the other browsers, but now I’m not so sure.
It’s true that it’s a pretty good browser. It’s never appealed to me, for whatever reason, but I still like it.

On to Microsoft, though:
Forget dominance, and forget anti-trust. For now, imagine things in simple terms. A software company makes an operating system; business tools to make spreadsheets, databases, and documents; an internet suite to chat with people, check emails, and log in to their services; and a program with which one can surf the web. In short, they make a full complement of business and personal tools.
Now, said company announces that they won’t include the web browser with their OS. A user needs to know what it is and search for it. How does that make sense?

What I’m saying is that I have no problem with Microsoft and the backing of their browser, besides the trouble they were getting into back in the day when they were actively entering into agreements with companies and not allowing Netscape on the system. That’s bad. Giving their users what they want without shoving a wake-up call down their throats? It doesn’t strike the ‘pro-sumer’ mind as benevolent, but it’s not wrong. I think most people forget that the average Windows user doesn’t even know what a browser is, so it really is unfair to make them choose one. More subtlety is needed.

Really, the best thing one can do to help the situation is to educate people about the different browser offerings. In America, Opera is kind of powerless to do that, which is probably why they’re so disdainful. In truth, Mozilla has more responsibility in this regard. Apple, too, could be doing more to spread the word. I only stumbled upon Safari for Windows last year by accident, while I was doing research on different browsers.

Lately, I’ve put a lot of faith in Google to spread the browser news. I can’t imagine a single computer user who hasn’t used Google’s search engine, and they actually put an advertisement for Chrome on their main page. Once they’ve got extensions working, I’d imagine them getting the word out there the best they could.

And all of this? It’s showing. For the past few years, Internet Explorer share has slowly been eroding. Even as Microsoft bundled with their OS, people turned to Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. The odd browser out is Opera, which seems to attract enough people only to replace the ones who stop using it. The poor thing.

My Wishlist

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Christmas is coming up!
Sometimes, I feel like life is whizzing by — wasn’t it February just a few days ago? I’ve gotten a lot done, but it always feels like I’m losing a day here and there. Soon, it’ll be Christmas again.
The most annoying thing about my Christmases is that I never know what to ask for. I just don’t really want anything. This year, I’ve created a list of all the things I really, really want:

  • 1920×1200 OLED Monitor with portrait rotation
  • eSATA/USB external SSD, 128GB
  • 800-lumen LED pocket flashlight
  • Large Wacom Intuos tablet
  • compact binoculars

I’ll never be able to afford any of that (besides the binoculars, but I only threw that on as an afterthought).

What about everyone else? What kinds of flagrantly expensive toys do you want?

Browsers. All of them.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Safari 4 is out!
Google Chrome was the first browser to achieve 100/100 on the Acid 3 test, and now Safari 4 is the second. Neither pass, but that might have more to do with my machine. Opera just announced the beta release of 10, which also boasts 100/100. Both Safari 4 and Opera 10-beta render it as the reference, but lack the speed. Chrome has that X in the corner and fails the linktest.
IE8, of course, is behind the times. I’d rank it with the last generation of browsers, like how Sega’s Dreamcast caught up with other consoles just before the new generation of consoles came out. Sega quit the console war, but I don’t think Microsoft will quit the browser war for another two or three years.
What worries me, at this point, is what I heard from Mozilla; things like, “achieving 100/100 on Acid3 is NOT a priority for the 3.5 release.” That’s the exact same stuff we hear from Microsoft. Mozilla has the bonus, though, of having a million contributors who all think differently, so while some people think Acid 3 is nothing and should be avoided, others will be working on it. They’re in the 90s, at least.

I honestly don’t know, at this point, where Firefox lies. It’s slow and imposing, but extremely powerful. It doesn’t have a lot of the features of other browsers, but it has more features than a lot other browsers have. It’s not going to have some of those new thing that are being put forth by Opera, Safari, and Chrome, but it will be fixing up pretty much everything it already has. No-one can possibly predict how the new one will run, because it sounds so different. I’ll leave it be until the stable release.

Safari 4

Safari has snubbed me. They’ve removed the tab functionality from the title bar, and instead carved out a band of the screen under the address bar. At least they don’t have all those File/Edit/Window/Help buttons (press ‘Alt’ to show it). Ooh, they’ve got a text-only zoom, for those who want it.
The browser itself has a nice look to it. It uses your colour scheme, so it won’t look out of place, and looks very smooth. My only problem is that I use the old Win2000-style title bars, which are blocky. I see that border around it, too. Does Chrome’s different GUI have some specific fault to it? If not, why don’t all the browsers customize themselves in such a way?
Once again, I’ll mention Safari’s document inspector. You can burrow through the code, view all the elements inside a particular tag, see exactly how long it takes to download each element and how much is weighs, debug scripts, and directly edit the DOM. It’s basically the same one Chrome uses, but Safari’s actually works. I can’t find a single bug in this one.

Opera 10

Ooh! What can I say? It’s amazing. You can actually drag the tab bar downwards to get a thumbnail of the page you’re viewing. You can open a tiny side-menu to check things like widgets and favourites. It has, of course, its usual set of accessibility controls, such as images and screen width. If I could meld Opera, Safari, and Chrome all together, I think I’d get my preferred browser.
Opera’s usual problems apply. It’s still got the windows title and borders, and the main menu sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s a bit of a pain to customize, because as you drag items everywhere you have to delete them from other places, and it’s extremely hard to drag bars anywhere. I think a good drag-and-drop customisation scheme is one of the things Opera is missing. I guess I’m used to Microsoft Office.
With my cost/bandwidth on mobile internet, it’s tempting to use something which compresses data on the server side and allows me to browse without images. I’ve already racked up more than 100MB in the last few hours, which seems to translate to almost $5. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

Since mid-2008, I’ve wanted to go through all the browsers and give an in-depth comparison between each of them. When Opera and Firefox release, I think I will.

USB 3.0 and Flash Drives

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Today, I remembered some ill-fated folder-based scheme I had made when I was 14 or so. I made a bunch of folders, named through 0-9, and then copied those into themselves five levels deep. I also put a little “this is a dead end” word document at the end of each of those. In the end, it took up a couple hundred megabytes and slowed the system down, so my older brother deleted it. It’s kind of embarrassing, because I could have used .txt files to make them smaller, and the entire thing was a bit cumbersome and didn’t quite work the way I wanted it to.

Anyway, I thought about the final size of that, today, and and realized that we were working from an 8GB hard disk. When I’m managing my files on my 8GB flash drive, today, I’m actually working with the same amount of space — more, because I don’t have an operating system on there to worry about. It puts things into perspective.

Also, I want one of these. An external USB/e-SATA SSD. 32GB is only $156, and it would allow me transfer speeds of 90MB/50MB, which is on par with a hard-drive. I could literally put a copy of windows on there, along with all the things I need to work, and then carry it around with me. Just attach it to someone’s computer, boot into my hard-drive instead of theirs, and away I go!
My current USB flash drive works at about 16MB/s read and 8MB/s write. The maximum for USB is about 30MB/s. The theoretical maximum is a lot higher, but it’s unlikely we’ll anything more than low 30s.

USB 3.0 is coming out very soon (the technology should be seen later this year, with widespread support sometime in 2011). This would allow devices to reach at least four hundred megabytes per second, which would mean you could run a hard-drive straight from USB.
By that time, though, SSDs will be about $1/GB, and would run at least twice as fast as a hard-drive. You could replace your hard-drive for only a few hundred dollars (or maybe just a hundred, for something like 128GB).
We’ll see what the future has in store.