Archive: February, 2002


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Thursday, February 28th, 2002

The Insidious Virus of Greedy Record Companies

This speech from the grammy awards is far more succinctly summed up by this image.

Thoughtcrime at

This is pretty shocking. Heather Hamilton has lost her job because she keeps an online journal.

Never mind the fact that she is an extremely talented and creative designer as well as one of the best writers on the web, bar none - she’s thinking a little too different, apparently.

Of course, she’d still have her job if she didn’t insist on actually using her free time creatively. Why couldn’t she just go to the gym, watch TV and consume brand name products like a good little worker bee?

The hypocrisy of the New Media economy makes me spit. These oh-so-hip companies will extoll the virtues of their "young, dynamic, creative" teams and give them all the "freedom" to get paid in stock options. Just don’t try to create a union.

What’s really shocking is to see how a lot of people don’t have a problem with being completely at the mercy of an employer, whether in the workplace or out of it:

"When you agree to work for a corporation, you lose a few constitutional rights. That’s all. You can’t engage in parody."

To put a positive spin on all of this, it’s fair to say that Heather is better off not working for that boss and, hey, now that she has more free time, maybe she’ll write even more.

Have iPod, Will Secretly Bootleg

I know it’s software piracy but I find this hilarious.

A kid walks into CompUSA, plugs his iPod into a display copy of a Mac and copies Office X almost instantly.

"Webb watched the teenager copy a couple of other applications. He left the kid to find a CompUSA employee. "I went over and told a CompUSA guy, but he looked at me like I was clueless," Webb said.

Unsure whether the kid was a thief or an out-of-uniform employee, Webb watched as he left the store. "I thought there’s no point in getting any more involved in this imbroglio," Webb said. "Besides, this is Texas. You never know what he might have been carrying.""

Well, we know he was carrying an iPod and it worked better and faster than attempting armed robbery.

Silicon Beach

I spent yesterday evening in the company of fellow Brightonites of the new-media persuasion.

The good people at Silicon Beach organised a day-long event. I missed the afternoon seminars because of band practice. The really interesting stuff was in the evening anyway.

Head honchos from Get Frank, Kerb and Victoria Real all came along to share their experiences and answer questions.

Their experiences could be mostly summed up as:

"We were really lucky a couple of years ago that people threw loads of money at us to do online stuff… I wouldn’t want to try to break into that market now."

The questions boiled down to:

"How did you come up with the company name?"

The Kerb presentation was by far the most entertaining, complete with chicken anecdotes, animation demonstrations and a sneak peak at their soon to be relaunched website.

I also took some pictures.

Wednesday, February 27th, 2002

So long, Spike

The last of the Goon’s, Hove’s own Spike Milligan, has passed away.

He really was an incredibly funny man. His books, his TV and radio shows, even his appearances on chat shows have all had me splitting my sides with laughter (and his ad-libbing cameo in "The Life Of Brian" is the funniest part of the whole film).

If you haven’t read it yet, you really should get your hands on a copy of "Puckoon" - it’s absolutely hilarious.

Y’know, when my time comes, I’d also like to be remembered for composing a number one hit in five minutes on the tube that goes:

"I’m walking backwards for Christmas, across the Irish Sea…"

Tuesday, February 26th, 2002

Mac OS X Roadshow

Jessica and I spent the day at the Mac OS X Roadshow which came to town today. Overall, it was pretty good.

The morning session called "Ten on X" was a chance for some of the big software companies to show their flagship products for OS X. The big announcement was from Adobe. They premiered Photoshop 7.It looks like it has some nifty new features. I’ll definitely be making the upgrade anyway.

We were nicely fed with a buffet lunch. Afterwards, we sat in on a couple of seminars. One was on web publishing and the other on audio. The web publishing seminar was basically Adobe and Connectix showing off their stuff - nothing I didn’t already know.

The audio seminar was kind of interesting because it involved somebody plugging a guitar into a Mac to play along to some songs. It’s all powered by some very powerful software that’s out of my league and not really what I need for trying to record a band in a practice room. It was still fun to see how the professionals do it.

All in all, it was an interesting day. I got to play with one of the new iMacs and being inside the Metropole hotel was certainly better than being outside in the howling wind and driving rain.


Sunday, February 24th, 2002

A Fair Cop

As I pass by the newsagents on the way to my house, I always enjoy trying to make sense of the curt headlines that are posted outside. "Binmen Lorry Chain Protest" for instance.

Usually these headlines are worthless except in a fun "spot the verb" kind of way. Last week, however, I was intrigued by the following headline:

"Anarchy Attractive Says Yard Chief"

The "Yard Chief" in question is Police Commander Brian Piddick of Lambeth who has already shown a forward-thinking attitude to the drug problem in Brixton. It turns out he’s been taking part in the online discussion forum at Urban 75, a rather good strictly non-profit youth e-zine.

So, basically he’s talking and listening to the people who really count - the young people most affected by crime and policing.

Is he getting credit for being so open and honest? Far from it:

"Although Mr Paddick has not broken any disciplinary codes, some at the Met believe he is "too honest for his own good" and needs to be persuaded that there are occasions when, for the sake of the force, his maverick views are best kept to himself."

That’s what you get for trying to improve community relations.

Oh, and as for the anarchy thing, all he said was "the concept of anarchism has always appealed to me". I think it would have been more constructive if the press has paid more attention to these comments:

"We need to educate people as to the effects drugs will have on them short term/long term and allow those old enough to make their own decision about what they do to their bodies. The bottom line is, screw the dealers, help the addicts."

Saturday, February 23rd, 2002

Web rage hits the internet

This is why it’s important that we build usable, intuitive websites - Web rage:

"High on people’s stress meter is the length of time it takes websites to appear, help buttons that do not offer any help and requests for personal details before being allowed into a site."

No argument here. I would also add annoying pop-up (or even worse, pop-under) ads to the list.

Luckily, there is a place to go when the online mood turns sour. "Moments of Simplicity " is designed to soothe the savage surfer.

Unfortunately, it pops up a new browser window without asking. That’s the last straw. My keyboard is hurtled across the room and my mouse is bitten in half as I attempt to use it to stifle my howl of anger.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Friday, February 22nd, 2002

Quest for an iMac

Seems like I’m not the only one who has had trouble trying to get hold of an iMac for a test-drive.

Bring on the dancing iMacs

According to this list, one of the things to be avoided in any blog is "your Mac fetish".


I finally got to see/touch/feel the new iMac today. The local Mac dealership has been ridiculously slow off the mark getting an in-store model.

It really is quite amazing. From a sheer ergonomic point of view, it’s a breakthrough. Having the freedom to move the screen around at will is very liberating.

Like most groundbreaking ideas, it seems so obvious in hindsight: allow the user to control the viewing experience. Let’s hope we see that credo filter through to web design.

Ashcroft Invokes Religion In U.S. War on Terrorism

Now America has a faith-based war.

Thursday, February 21st, 2002

Iran nets another revolt

Ben Hammersley’s article about the internet in Iran has been published in The Guardian. It’s a fascinating read.

There was a crackdown on internet usage in Iran last year but not for the reasons you might think…

"While there is concern that porn, and things offensive to Islam, are freely available, no one has yet decided to filter it. Opposition political parties are also given free reign."

So what caused the crackdown? Voice Chat.

"So many people were using it, instead of their more expensive telephones, that the loss of revenue at the nationally-owned phone company was too great for the government to bear."

Sounds positively western.

Wednesday, February 20th, 2002

Palindromic Timestamp

20:02, 20/02, 2002

The new Jessica

Not content with ordering a Mac, Jessica has also had her hair cut into a lovely bob. She’s also planning to change hair colour.

Who are you? What have you done with Jessica?


Untold History : The History of Flash

Who knew? It was Lego that inspired and influenced the development of Flash.

This is straight from the horse’s mouth, Flash’s inventor, Jonathan Gay:

"Lego helped me learn to allocate resources. You only had so many bricks and you needed to find an efficient way to use them. Lego was also very forgiving. If you made a mistake, you could always take part of your creation apart and make it better."

Tuesday, February 19th, 2002


I think it’s high time we had a new CSS theme here to brighten the place up a little.

I’ve created the Zeldman theme to honour the man who has probably done more than anybody else to advance the cause of CSS+Valid markup.

When Jeffrey Zeldman redesigned A List Apart and tied it in with the WaSP’s browser upgrade campaign, it was like the first drops of rain that would soon turn into a storm, the pebbles that set a landslide in motion, the hole in the dam that unleashes the flood, the careless skiier that starts an avalanche, the first pringle in a tube that you know you’ll have to finish because, well, once you pop you just can’t stop…

Excuse me.

What I’m saying is that thanks to Jeffrey Zeldman there are now a lot more sites out there using CSS for layout. This site is one of them.

The least I could do was steal his icons, wrap ‘em in a two-pixel border and stick ‘em on an orange background.

By the way, I checked with the man himself to make sure he was okay with it and he said:

"It’s lovely and very well done. I’m honored. Thank you."

Mac voyeurs

ZDNet has created a monster.

A couple of weeks ago, David Coursey said he was going try using just Macs for a month to see what the migration from Windows-land would be like. So far, the results have been very positive.

Now, however, he seems to have crossed that invisible line that separates the two camps in the OS battle. In his latest column, he rants about people he refers to as Mac voyeurs:

"Frankly, I am getting a bit tired of telling these Windows bigots - people who don’t even know why they use Windows except that everyone else does - about the wonders of Macintosh. Hell, Windows is just fine for them, so I’d hate to push them into a non-conformity they just couldn’t handle."

Ouch! I don’t think he’s going to win any converts with that kind of talk.

Luckily, even if David Coursey issues a Fatwa, Jessica will be safe. She’s about to become a fully fledged Mac user.

It was this "suite deal" that clinched the decision. Now we’re just counting the days ‘till her gorgeous new iMac shows up.

Monday, February 18th, 2002

:: design for chunks ::

Normally, online designer showcases involve various digerati designing functionless splash pages.

This is different: airline sick bags by designers for designers.

This somewhat more restricted format has definitely brought out the best from all the designers involved.

Sunday, February 17th, 2002

New and improved

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed a few changes here in the "Journal" section of adactio.

First off, I’ve added a little search engine to the journal archives. It’s very basic and it doesn’t do boolean queries but it’s handy for finding old links.

If you want to use it from anywhere, drag this bookmarklet to your toolbar: Adactio Search and you can highlight words on a page (or enter them in a prompt box) and search for them in the journal archives.

I was prompted to make the search engine after reading an article at A List Apart on how to build a search engine in Perl.

I built mine in PHP but it works on a similar principle. It searches through XML files (the journal entries) on the fly. I thought about doing an index-based system where I would have keywords from each entry in a CSV file but the quick’n’dirty search seems to be working fine for now. We’ll see how it scales as the journal entries add up.

The other new thing I added to the journal page is a little list of the last 5 referrers to my site. These are taken from a little text file I keep of the last 50 referrers.

It can be fun sometimes to see what kind of weird search requests googlers have used to arrive here.

Saturday, February 16th, 2002

Olympic kid: 7-year-old's invention earns trip to Utah

That is one smart kid:

"Using tin foil, an old satellite dish and a bunch of American Online promotional compact discs, he fashioned a solar pizza oven."

BBC Winter Olympics 2002 Game

The television is on right now so that Jessica can keep track of what’s happening at the Winter Olympics.

On the BBC coverage, they just went back to the studio where one of the presenters was hunched over her computer playing this Flash snowboarding game at the BBC website.

It’s fun and it doesn’t take ages to load, either.

Friday, February 15th, 2002

A Canticle for Leibowitz

My reading matter lately seems to consist entirely of classic science fiction books I haven’t read in years.

I just finished re-reading "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter M. Miller.

In some ways, the book seems a very dated product of the cold war. On the other hand, it tackles some very basic aspects of human nature which give it a timeless relevancy.

On the face of it, it’s yet another post-apocalyptic scenario - a real shaggy dog story in science fiction. But in this case, the post-apocalyptic setting is just a backdrop for religous and moral debate.

In fact, I would say that this book might appeal more to scholars of the Middle Ages than to science fiction fans. The main characters in the book are monks and the setting is almost entirely within the walls of a monastary.

The book is set in the future, but the issues it raises are rooted in past conflicts. The separation of church and state, the moral responsibility of science, even issues like euthanasia are all addressed.

So not exactly an action-packed blockbuster, then. But it is a stimulating read.

I just wish I could understand all the latin that’s interspersed throughout the book. Human Virus Scanner

You can keep your Nortons and your McAfees.

This meme diagnostic tool tests to see how many icons you recognise. You are then told what memetic virii you are probably suffering from.

I don’t want to skew your results by telling you what I got but I seem to have a disturbingly high Goth and Industrial music infection rate.

Blog This

Thursday, February 14th, 2002

Back to school

I just noticed from my referrer logs that this site is listed in the "References" section for a course being taught at Penn State.

The course is on "Digital Document Design" and I’m under the design bit, apparently.

Okay, so the site is listed as "adacito" but still… pretty nifty, don’t you think?

Geek Love

Awww… isn’t that cute? Commander Taco proposed to his girlfriend on the front page of Slashdot.

Considering the amount of traffic that site gets, that’s a very public display of affection.

She said yes, by the way.

Move Over, BT: He Invented Links

It’s nice to see that most people seem to share my disgust at British Telecom’s spurious patent on hyperlinks which will probably get laughed out of court.

Bob Bemer, a long-time programmer, inventor of the "escape" concept and one of the fathers of ASCII, has spoken out against BT’s selfish, greedy and downright stupid action:

"I was amazed when I read that BT claims to own hyperlinks," Bemer said. "It’s sad. Technology develops through decades of work by many people. That’s why I put my work into the public domain whenever possible."

Hefty bill with added insult shocks Telecom customer

This is not the sort of thing you want to see on your ‘phone bill:

"Telecom has ordered an investigation after a customer received an account charging him a "penalty for being an arrogant bastard". "

Tuesday, February 12th, 2002

The Always Amusing Euphemism Generator

The new iMac Animations

Here’s a match made in heaven: Pixar have come up with a couple of animated shorts featuring the new iMac

Examples of abuse of the Apostrophe

The Apostrophe Protection Society presents a rogue’s gallery of snaphots depicting some of the worst offenses against the apostrophe.

Java Spectrum Emulator

This is fantastic!

I’m in retro heaven with this Sinclair ZX Spectrum emulator.

It’s all coming back to me now: all those late nights playing Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy, Alien8… then of course there’s that classic adventure game, The Hobbit. It was groundbreaking stuff at the time.

Best of all, you can play one of the absolute best computer games of all time, ever: Elite.

Monday, February 11th, 2002

Furry Fun

I’ve just come back from seeing Monsters Inc.

What a great film! I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me.

Seriously, it’s a wonderful movie with a lot of heart. Although I think the animators were verging on showing off when they included a scene of a big hairy creature in a snowstorm.

As usual with Pixar’s films, the "out-takes" at the end are priceless.

Sunday, February 10th, 2002

Nokia XHTML Browser

This is one of the best arguments I’ve seen so far for coding in XHTML-strict.

This Nokia mobile phone can parse XHTML documents styled with CSS. This is a welcome change from WML.

Simply by coding in XHTML, using CSS for styling, you’ve got a ready-made mobile site. No more coding for WAP.

Now that’s what I call forward-compatibiliy.

Saturday, February 9th, 2002

Stupid Translator

Jessica is going to just love this…

The Stupid Translator takes a web page, then uses one of those awful online translators to convert it to German and then converts it back to English again.

Here is this very page after going through the shredder.

BBC - Radio 4 - The Lord of the Rings

It’s Saturday and that means I get to have my weekly dosage of Tolkien taken aurally.

BBC Radio Four is repeating its fantastic radio adaption of The Lord Of The Rings. I remember listening to it religously when it was broadcast during my teenage years.

It has stood the test of time very well. The music is atmospheric and the cast are well chosen, although it is a bit odd to now hear Ian Holm play Frodo after seeing him play Bilbo in the film.

As part the BBC’s whole "interactive" thingy, you can now also play a pretty nifty little flash game and win some prizes.

Friday, February 8th, 2002

Axis of Just As Evil

From SatireWire: "Libya, China, Syria form axis of Just As Evil".

"Elsewhere, peer-conscious nations rushed to gain triumvirate status in what became a game of geopolitical chairs. Cuba, Sudan, and Serbia said they had formed the Axis of Somewhat Evil, forcing Somalia to join with Uganda and Myanmar in the Axis of Occasionally Evil, while Bulgaria, Indonesia and Russia established the Axis of Not So Much Evil Really As Just Generally Disagreeable."

Patently Absurd

Here’s a great article by science writer, James Gleick on the ludicrous mess that is the US Patent Office: "Patently Absurd".

Thursday, February 7th, 2002


Hey, Moby’s favourite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is also *my* favourite episode.

This just confirms that Moby is one very cool, if somewhat geeky, person.

"I’ve seen ‘Lord of the Rings’ 3 times and I can give you the genealogies of most of the characters if you really need to know…"


Five Finger Fillet

This is fun in a really gross sort of way: "Five Finger Fillet".

Wednesday, February 6th, 2002

Stormy Weather

There’s been quite a bit of nasty weather here in England lately (nastier than usual, that is).

One man was swept out to sea from Brighton pier. Now, it’s looking like he might have been engaged in the practice of "wave watching".

That would be one explanation for why he was last seen clinging to the *underside* of the pier. Here’s another by Inspector Andy Kille, of Sussex Police:

"He should not have been there. It is not an area open to the public. We are keeping an open mind, including the possibility that he intended to commit suicide, since that is pretty much what he did."

Tuesday, February 5th, 2002

Journalists to be fined for each mistake in February

Deutsche Post

Having lived in Germany for five years, I have experienced one of the most expensive, inept postal service in Europe.

Be afraid, Britain, be very afraid.

Just a quick update to yesterday’s entry. I was chatting with Ben Hammersley earlier and we had a nice talk about syndicating RSS files.

He’s back from Tehran…

"I’m working on an article for the Guardian on the Internet in Iran. Most of the cybercafes were shut down last year, but perhaps not for the reason you might think…Stay tuned for the full story."

I can’t wait. This is the same guy that interviewed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest in Burma.:

"My interview was recorded in three ways: on a tiny "memory stick" taped to the inside of my thigh; a Dictaphone tape that went into my pocket as bait; and halfway through a bootleg Good Morning, Vietnam soundtrack I had picked up in Bangkok that went into my bag with some other tapes I had bought."

Monday, February 4th, 2002

Online in Iran

I’m making use of a neat feature on my contact page. There’s a bunch of people willing to provide an online status indicator for AIM, ICQ, MSN, Odigo and Yahoo messenger programs.

My AOL and ICQ status indicator comes courtesy of Ben Hammersley. Thanks, Ben.

Mr. Hammersley is in Tehran right now. I guess when he booked his flight he didn’t realise he’d be winging his way to one third of an evil axis.

I mean really, he should have gone to a country that’s part of the good guy’s alliance like Saudi Arabia. After all, if the Saudis were the top exporters of terrorists then surely Dubya would have included them on his list of evildoers.

I think a lot of people, not just Colin Powell and Tony Blair, were surprised by Bush’s inclusion of Iran alongside Iraq and North Korea. Iran didn’t even feature in Charles Johnson’s "Who do we attack next?" poll.

"We are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia."

Sunday, February 3rd, 2002

The bleat, the pretzel and the president

One of my all-time favourite websites is, home to The Institute Of Official Cheer featuring The Gallery Of Regrettable Food, probably the funniest thing I have ever read on or off the web.

I was surprised, though, by Mr. Lileks’ outrage at this cartoon about which he vented in a recent bleat:

"This particular strip, though, made my jaw clang on the counter. The strip - written well in advance, of course, was timed for the day after the State of the Union speech, and it calls the president a drunk."

Ummm… I don’t want to burst anyone’s reality bubble, least of all the bubble of so talented a writer as James Lileks, but everyone I’ve talked to about Pretzelgate pretty much assumes that, in the words of the cartoon, "the guy was drunk".

I guess I just find it odd that this suggestion could be construed as outragous given Bush’s history. And, hey, he’s been under a lot of pressure lately so if he wants to do some falling down, let him.

Still, it was slightly disconcerting to see James Lileks briefly metamorphise into Sam, the bald eagle from The Muppet Show.

He also ranted about those lefties over at Metafilter, which admittedly is not the best place to hang out if you’re a Bush fan.

Personally, this Metafilter post is my favourite comment on the whole pretzel incident:

"I was watching the news and they quoted Bush as saying something about having not been out for too long as his "dogs hadn’t moved" when he came around.

That’s just what I want, a President that gauges the passage of time by the motion of dogs."

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog

Jessica has one of those calendars filled with cartoons from The New Yorker.

Half the time, I look at them and I feel like I’m in that Seinfeld episode where everyone pretends to understand a particularly obtuse New Yorker cartoon.

Yesterday’s cartoon, however, is a classic.

Saturday, February 2nd, 2002


The time is two minutes past two am, Greenwich Mean Time on the second of February, 2002.

02:02, 02/02/2002

CSS resources

I’ve had a couple of emails from people asking for some good CSS resources. Here are my recommendations:

One story: "A Web Designer’s Journey" by Jeffrey Zeldman chronicles a CSS redesign in five easy pages.

One book: "Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide" by Eric Meyer is just what it says it is.

One list: "css-discuss: Practical discussions of CSS and its use" is a discussion list set up by the aforementioned Mr. Meyer. Theoretical musings are frowned upon. Nitty-gritty "how do I…?" questions are actively encouraged.

One website: " CSS layout techniques for fun and profit" by Eric Costello has tutorials, techniques and layouts for you to play with.

One bookmarklet:’s "Toggle CSS". Actually there are loads, they’re all useful and they’re not called bookmarklets, they’re called favelets. So there.

One validator: "The W3C CSS Validation Service". natch.

Friday, February 1st, 2002

More tinkering with themes

In a previous entry, I was lamenting the fact that each of my themes relies on two different stylesheets which effectively rules out using an on-the-fly style switcher.

Well, Paul Sowden comes to my rescue. He writes:

"You should add the @import rule to the begining of each external sheet.

The document would have a list of alternate sheets, and inside each of the alternate sheets that are linked (the basic ones) you put the @import rule linking to the more advanced sheet on the first line.

Hey presto, old browsers are happy, new browsers are happy, and people can change sheets actually "on the fly"."

Excuse me while I slap my forehead: it’s so obvious now that somebody has pointed it out to me.

Thanks, Paul.


I love my Mac but I don’t think I’m quite ready to compose an entire opus about it.

Still, I think it’s pretty nifty that you can recycle an iMac box as a bass drum.

-={ PaPeR bOaTs }=-

The newest story over at is not only very well written, it has some great photos of Brighton’s wonderful west pier.

I just found out that the guy who runs the site also runs the local Mac Users Group which I’ve just joined. I’m looking forward to meeting him in person at the next gathering.

Tinkering with the themes

Hopefully, you won’t notice anything different but I’ve been tinkering with the stylesheets for the various themes for the site.

After I read this piece at frownland, I realised I was kind of cheating with my theme-switching widget. I was using server-side code (PHP) to change the "eyecandy" for each theme.

Now, I think I’ve managed to achieve a fairly complete seperation of style and content. In fact, I would be able to use the excellent one-click style-switching widget if it weren’t for the fact that each theme uses two stylesheets.

I use <link> to call up one stylesheet with all the basic stuff (fonts, colours, etc.) that even Netscape 4 can understand. I use @import for the second stylesheet which has all the fancy positioning stuff.

That way, older browsers that don’t understand @import just get the basic styles.

The only fly in the ointment is Internet Explorer 4.5 for the Mac. It *thinks* it understands @import but then proceeds to totally mangle the styles.

A non-compliant browser that thinks it is standards-compliant. It is, as a friend of mine put it, "the worst kind of idiot".