:Archive Of August 2002:

Saturday, August 31, 2002 - 1:31 PM -

I admit I resist adding blogs to my already too large blog list. It's like finding too many good books at the library and needing to lighten the load. I was reading through Fragment.nl, looking for an excuse to not add it to my dailies, and hit this post on this article. I'm hooked.

Friday, August 30, 2002 - 10:22 PM -

In a way, I don't think people realize that CSS is at an experimental stage. Layout structure is not understood with the same finality that we've had with tables for a few years. We're back to innovating and discovering with layout, not just design. [Though, yes, you can get into a semantical argument here, but you know what I mean, so work with me.]

One very popular method of table layout is what I call the Photoshop School. Lay it out like a print project and then slice it as gifs. Though I am not at all against the many really innovative uses of this, the technique did encourage a slew of designers to understand nothing about the underlying code. They H1'd or H4'd wherever the hell they felt like it.

Part of the pain of learning CSS for them is not just the idea that DIVs are in a flow, or our despicable browsers, but it's the incredible amount of skipped self-education about the meaning of the markup tags. And there's quite a bit to how HTML is meant to work. Mark Pilgrim's valuable gift of 30 Days To Accessibility is statement of how little we know about web design. It's 2002 and we're just learning this? It's not like the markup for accessible design just became available.

Web design is currently characterized by developers who know their language about as well as a marketer knows English, when they should know it as well as a novelist. This period will not be remembered for the innovation. It will be remembered as the stumbling slow kid who had to spend a long time intoning "SEE SPOT RUN."

- 12:24 PM -

Wherein the silver ball of intelligence is smacked around by the human pinball machine, Bruce Sterling.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - 11:00 PM -

When a designer writes a design book for designers, the escher-loop of retribution becomes fair play.

Monday, August 26, 2002 - 7:29 PM -

"A complete list of food available in the 'American' section of Berlin's Kadewe department store, as of 7/99.":

I'd like to do a gallery installment of this sort of thing. Make a wall of these edible marketing icons. Then repeat for all countries. Use a large space so people can walk around the selection. Perhaps arrange them geographically. At the center have the edibles with full market penetration, like Coke. And perhaps above run a planetarium type display to show limited international penetration by products. Like the increasing mixture of the EU, and the almost total dominance of foreign icons in countries like Canada.

Sunday, August 25, 2002 - 6:46 PM -

"On this page we will collect some links for you regarding Presto and Opera 7 as we move closer to release."


Friday, August 23, 2002 - 4:46 PM -

Neato. Ref logs show Opera 7 hits starting last Tuesday. Somebody's got the beta. Good luck with it.

- 11:20 AM -

Said 'nice little program' is a little funky. Doesn't load on boot like it's supposed to, and just now choked on a send. Popped it open and it had reverted to German, but had kept the settings in place. Selected Edit and then Save, without changing anything, and the blocked mail was sent. And Opera froze.

So, probably you should only try that program if you're willing to play with things. Otherwise wait for the new mail client in Opera 7.

[Background, for those who are curious but don't know what I'm talking about: Opera has mail built in, but it doesn't support authorized SMTP. Web hosts like mine require that. The solution is to send via your ISP. But my ISP's mail service is as bad as its hosting, so I use my web host for everything I can.

Why not get another ISP? Because mine has the monopoly on cable. So I pay them for cable and bad hosting and bad mail, to just get cable. Hence to use my preferred mail client on my preferred service, I need authorized SMTP.]

Thursday, August 22, 2002 - 6:30 PM -

First, I'm a complete idiot. Opera 6 does have email filters. So did Opera 5. I have no idea how I've missed this. Really embarrassing. Second, this nice little program lets you use authorized SMTP.

- 4:00 PM -

Almost forgot: Opera 6.05 for Windows is out. Not much new.

I so hope they fix the DOM, the authorized SMTP, the email filters, and the plug-in detection in the rumored Opera 7. This is the first browser release I've looked forward to instead of feared.

[What the heck? They're shipping version 5 for OSX? Oh man... Mac folks, if you test that, please don't think you're testing anything remotely like the current Windows version. Mac 5 is like the Windows 5, and without mail. It's really not a browser I'd recommend in 2002.]

- 3:44 PM -

Our sleep researcher brought by some linux-on-a-cdrom to try. The idea is you can have linux without doing a full install. You boot the preconfigured CD in any PC. Neat.

So far all I've done is complete-dummy runs; read nothing, click OK buttons that any idiot would click, and wait for timeout when that's an option. Here's the results:

DyneBolic looked like cheese put out by some l33t 14yr olds. I'm sorry, but it did. Not a good impression. SuSE took a bunch of futzing around and still didn't detect my hardware very well, nor gave any good impressions. DemoLinux did not boot. Virtual-Linux seemed to load fine but then stopped, leaving me with a blank screen.

Knoppix rocked my socks. Zingo: painless, fully equipped linux. It even detected my wacom.

My box is typical of what sells for budget these days. Duron, etc etc. I tried Knoppix on a couple of nasty old Pentium I's, too. The one with 80mb and a mach64 pci vid card did okay. The other with 32mb and a generic isa card went through pain. Both boxes are too pokey for modern apps like Gimp and OpenOffice, but I wanted to know if Knoppix would detect the hardware correctly. It did. [My laptop didn't get anywhere, but it's so old and funky that it was unfair to try.]

So. Anyway. I'm really impressed. I've got some reading to do now. This could only be cooler if it booted the mac too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002 - 12:34 PM -

Reinventing the Wheel by Jessica Helfand. This is a great book. I've been putting off mentioning it here because it's turned out to be an excellent read, not just excellent eye food. But I'm not going to have time to finish it real soon, so: You're a designer? I think you want this book.

C'mon PA Press -- give people some sample pages. The book is irresistible.

You could put it on the shelf with your Tufte's, but I don't think it will leave your coffee table real soon.

Sunday, August 18, 2002 - 11:14 AM -

Well, it's back. I mentioned last week someone had nicked the wagon illustration from my root page. Then it went away, so I gratefully dropped the matter.

No such luck. Some people... I do a lot of work for free, to help people get on the net. This person is using some of my free code, and that part is great. But then steal something personal I spent a lot of time on? And essentially the logo for my site? That's no simple photograph.

I'm not pleased. Right now I'm trying to remember all the German I used to know, curses from when I tried to keep my old packwagen running. I expect I'll be using it.

- 10:01 AM -

I've been on holiday. I'm still on holiday. But what little surfing I did last week turned up a few blog posts on MS yanking their 'free' web fonts. MS mumbled something about abuse and that the fonts are built in modern PC and Mac OS's anyway.

Bullocks. They're going after Linux, people. Mozilla shows up IE6PC for the pap that it is. Linux is finally making inroads into the consumer desktop, even being available from WalMart. [I'm not saying the WalMart box is a good execution, just that its existence is a noteworthy event in Linux adoption.]

People want computers for the web. Linux with Mozilla delivers. But a new Linux box will no longer be able to show your verdana site in verdana. This is a big deal.

I was getting surprised no one was making the connection and put it on my Monday to-do list. Fortunately Slashdot woke up this morning.

The hell the browser wars are over.

Saturday, August 17, 2002 - 11:54 AM -


Departures are so sad.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002 - 11:50 AM -

Wonderful book. Really, really nice. I'd rather not link to the publisher's site or the amazon page where people spoil it with their reviews. Ignore all that, and go look for it in your favorite physical bookstore. Open it and sink in. The book has a very light touch, easily ruined by marketing.

In other news, I'm off to tea late tonight, and won't be back till sometime Friday. I'll catch up on any mail after.

Sunday, August 11, 2002 - 11:43 AM -

Well that's rather rude. Yes, that's my wagon. No, no one asked if it was okay.

[Late Monday update: it's gone. Whether coincidence or not, who can say.]

Sunday, August 4, 2002 - 11:14 AM -

Humble pie: in view of the post below this one I realized I should check to see what I wrote in the book. Yep, I got it wrong.

"Pixels are an absolute value, so if you declare an item is 100px, then it will be 100px of the user's display."

Arguably this is correct in the dictionary definition of absolute, and the statement is functionally correct because the user agent is supposed to take care of things, but because what W3C means by the terms absolute and relative in this case is somewhat different, I should have been more careful. Dang. Sorry about that, folks.

A cm is a cm and gets visually smaller as it recedes from you. A pixel has been the smallest dot on a computer display for years. But this was a temporary stability, and the W3C knew that, so to deal with inevitable higher density screens they defined the pixel as a physical world size at a fixed distance from your eyeball.

So technically it's "relative to the resolution of the viewing device". Functionally you can think of the px as an absolute like a cm, not a relative like an em, and it's easier to do that when you're just beginning, but I really wish I'd dealt with the issue better in the book so people don't get tripped up when they dig deeper into the specs.

- 10:37 AM -

A 22 inch, 3840x2400 display.

This is why the W3C defines a pixel as a relative measure, not an absolute like cm or pt. It's relative to the viewing device.

"If the pixel density of the output device is very different from that of a typical computer display, the user agent should rescale pixel values. It is recommended that the reference pixel be the visual angle of one pixel on a device with a pixel density of 90dpi and a distance from the reader of an arm's length. For a nominal arm's length of 28 inches, the visual angle is therefore about 0.0227 degrees. For reading at arm's length, 1px thus corresponds to about 0.28 mm (1/90 inch)."

It's not the smallest dot your monitor can make. "...the user agent should rescale pixel values." Let's hope they do. There's a number of high density displays being developed. Can't find the link right now, but a British outfit comes to mind. They announced about 6 months ago that they'd figured out how to do ultra high density cheap screens for cel phones and PDAs and were hoping to come to market in a year. Let's call it two years -- that still means many of our current browsers will be around.

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