Archive: March, 2003


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Saturday, March 29th, 2003

Time (col)lapse

I walked by the the West Pier today. There were still wisps of smoking coming out of the superstructure.

Here’s a slideshow of webcam pictures showing two hours of the fire.

Looking back over photographs I’ve taken of the West Pier, I put together a longer timeline of pictures showing the life cycle of the pier.

I hope the next picture I add will show scaffolding going up in preparation for the pier’s restoration.

Friday, March 28th, 2003

West Pier Fire

I tend to rise late, the lack of a nine-to-five schedule being one of the advantages of life as a freelancer.

So I was completely caught off guard when Tim from Motionpath called me this morning and said:

"Jeremy, have you seen? The West Pier is on fire!"

Time for me to change from early morning bumbling mode to on-the-spot picture snapping blogging mode.

While I was changing into something more decent, not wanting to upset the citizens of Brighton even more with the sight of me in my pyjamas, I just kept thinking "this is ridiculous!". First, the West Pier starts collapsing into the sea, then the Palace Pier catches fire and now this. It’s like Clash Of The Piers, Pier Wars, Battle Of The Piers.

By the time I got down to the beach, the fire was out and the end of the pier was a smoking skeletal hulk. I snapped off a few pictures of the coastguard helicopter surveying the mess and then turned ‘round to get home to my obligatory dose of caffeine.

I don’t think I’m cut out to be an on-the-spot reporter.

Luckily, Tim had already taken plenty of pictures.

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

iPays my money, iTakes my choice

I’m upgrading my iBook.

Kind of.

I’m actually getting a brand spanking new iBook. But I’ll be doing it in such a way that I’ll be sort of trading in my current one.

Okay, this is kind of complicated and frankly, not that interesting so feel free to click away now.

I’ve been wanting more from my iBook for a while: more speed, more space, more features. At the same time, I don’t fancy forking over the money for a brand new iBook when I already have a perfectly good, if somewhat dated, one already.

Now, Jessica would also like an iBook. She’d like to be able to do her translation work on the hoof and have fun with iPhoto when we’re on holiday. However, she also doesn’t want to fork over the money for a new iBook especially when she doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.

So I’m selling Jessica my iBook for a fraction of the cost of a new one. This money goes towards my new iBook which I am getting at a 25% discount thanks to Apple’s “Refurbished Store” (it’s a local shop for local people and it’s only open on Wednesdays).

We’re both paying just a few hundred quid. We’re both getting ice cool laptops. Not bad. There’ll probably be some tax benefits too if we can just figure out how to do it right.

My new iBook has already shipped. The hard drive is three times larger than my current model and it has a CD-burning, DVD-playing combo drive.

I still need to get an airport card and more memory, both of which I have on my current iBook and I’m passing along to Jessica.

This is all pretty exciting. I’m upgrading my iBook.

Kind of.

Monday, March 24th, 2003

Protest Pictures

Jason Kottke has posted up some pictures from a peace march in New York.

Here in Brighton, there have been protests pretty much every day since the war began. I passed by a gathering at Churchill Square on my back from doing some work in town today.

Like every other blogger in Brighton, I took some pictures.

Sunday, March 23rd, 2003

Other People's Stories

Set aside some time and read through other people’s stories.

Seeing a great story site like that reminds me of when I first found sites like Fray and Private Art that made me so excited about the World Wide Web.

Saturday, March 22nd, 2003

Bush Demands Recount

Now, this is funny:

"In the wake of Apple’s announcement late yesterday that former Vice President Al Gore was elected to the company’s board of directors, President George Bush announced this morning that he would demand a recount.

"I am sure that when the votes are tallied again," Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer said, "Apple will find that President Bush was, in fact, named to the board, not Mr. Gore."

So funny, in fact, that Apple themselves linked to it.

Friday, March 21st, 2003


Making branding more honest. My favourite is the rebranded Google.

By Jingo

A British commander addresses his troops and tells them:

“Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there. You will see things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing. Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.”

Meanwhile an American commander has apparently found some link between Iraq and September 11th and tells his troops:

“This is going to be the biggest statement to the world that you are never going to [expletive] with America like that again.”

Another American commander made up for a lack of eloquence with brevity:

“Guys, you’re going to war.”

To which his troops responded with a roar of “Hooah!”.

Reporters said that during the British commander’s address, troops listened in silence.

Thursday, March 20th, 2003

No War On Monaghan

Let us hope that in the fog of war, no bombs intended for Iraq are used to bomb county Monaghan in Ireland.

It’s an easy mistake to make, apparently.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2003

Uncle Alan

Alan Keith OBE passed away yesterday.

He was 94. That’s a long haul for anybody, especially someone who smoked every day.

For 44 years, he was the host of Your Hundred Best Tunes on BBC Radio 2.

For many people, he will be remembered for his wonderful rich voice. Others will recall his long and distinguished career.

To me, he will always be Uncle Alan.

He wasn’t actually my uncle, he was my granduncle, but that’s what I always knew him as: Uncle Alan.

Monday, March 17th, 2003


Clutter is an aptly named little OS X application that at first glance appears to be a candidate for PerversionTracker but which, on further investigation, is actually really handy.

Here’s what it does: when you play a track in iTunes, it looks up the album title at Amazon. If there’s a match, it displays the album cover in a little window. You can then drag this album cover onto your desktop where it functions as a shortcut - click on it to play the album.

After you’ve dragged more than a few album covers out on to your desktop you’ll understand where the application’s name comes from.

Now, I may have a job for the Lazy Web.

Whenever I have iTunes running, not only do I have Clutter open, I also have Kung-Tunes churning away. Kung-Tunes is the application responsible for the "Current iTunes track" thingy on my journal.

What I’d like to do is not only show the title of the track and album that I’m listening to but also show a little thumbnail of the album cover.

I’m guessing some clever person out there has already used Amazon’s API to do just this but I haven’t come across it yet.

In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of my desktop. If you’re bored or easily entertained, see how many of these albums you can name.

36 album covers

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Today is my national holiday.

I’ve celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in many different countries over the past years. This year, it’s England. Previously it’s been Germany, Canada and the USA.

I have to say that the most tasteful celebrations are usually to be found in Ireland itself where the day is marked by modest parades, a day off work and the sporting of a small amount of shamrock on the lapel.

The American celebrations are, by contrast, positively bacchanalian. Everyone gets to be Irish for a day (except the homosexuals) and suffer from the delusion that drinking green beer is somehow a good thing.

I remember finding myself in New Orleans one St. Patrick’s Day. Actually, I spent most of the day in a car on a road trip with some friends. We had set out a couple of days previously from New England.

We arrived in New Orleans in the evening and the festivities were well underway. Still in the car, we took a wrong turn and ended up inching down Bourbon Street in the middle of a throng of revellers.

I overheard a homeless man ask:

"Wha’z goin’ awn?"

To which a happy bystander responded:

"It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Where have you been?"

He replied:

"Ah bin drunk!"

Sunday, March 16th, 2003

You don't know from fish

Is it a miracle or is it a rewired Billy Bass?

"An obscure Jewish sect in New York has been gripped in awe by what it believes to be a mystical visitation by a 20lb carp that was heard shouting in Hebrew"

Saturday, March 15th, 2003

Build it and they will come

I attended a meeting of fellow Brighton-based geeks and coders yesterday.

The plan is to build an open source Content Management System.

We certainly won’t be building anything near the size of Josephine, the soon-to-be-released enterprise system from local dot communists, The Runtime Collective. Oli from The Runtime Collective did attend the meeting and filled us in on their plans for global domination.

We want to build something more than a ‘blog but less than Josephine.

I’ll probably be doing the front-end integration. My back-end coding skills pale in comparison to those of real coders.

Still, all this talk of an open source CMS made me think again about the little self-penned system I have here at adactio. It works pretty well (except for last night when something went out of whack for no discernable reason). I like the fact that it’s built around XML rather than relying on a database.

Maybe I should streamline it a bit, make it more portable and offer it up to anyone who’s interested.

Thus, I would increase my coding skills and my karma points at the same time.

Thursday, March 13th, 2003

CSS tip

Here’s a handy tip from Jeffrey Zeldman, prompted by a question asked at the “CSS: Between the (Style) Sheets” panel that he co-hosted at SXSW: how to preload hover states in CSS rollovers.

This is just what I needed to add the finishing touch to my recent XHTML/CSS conversion of Lost In Translation.

I was really happy with the way that I had the site navigation links looking but the CSS rollovers were causing an annoying flicker in Internet Explorer 5+ on Windows. References to images in a stylesheet evidently don’t get cached by the browser.

Now, thanks to Jeffrey’s tip and the addition of one extra line to my stylesheet, that problem is solved.

Want some more real-world CSS tips’n’tricks? Check out Doug Bowman’s great article “Using Background-Image to Replace Text”.


You may remember that on my birthday I mentioned that I received of the soundtrack to the movie Avalon.

It was a gift from Jessica and it wasn’t easy for her to get hold of it. She had to get an import from the French Amazon.

Trying to get hold of the movie itself is even harder. I could order a German or French DVD but there are no English subtitles provided. An English, European region DVD of Avalon doesn’t exist.

So when I was offered the chance to get the film in Divx format, I hardly considered it piracy. Hey, I’m still willing to pay good money for a DVD of the film.

There was only one snag. Quicktime doesn’t get along too well with the Divx format. There are some notorious sound glitches.

Some googling revealed that the generally accepted way to get Divx movies to play nice with Quicktime involves some complicated .avi to .mov conversion.

So I was very pleased indeed when I discovered VLC, a new multimedia player for the Mac. So new, in fact, that it was released on the very same day that I was given Avalon in Divx.

Now that’s what I call a timely product release.

In case you’re wondering, the movie itself is pretty darn excellent. A stylish mixture of video games and eastern European grittiness mixed with a nice slice of existentalism wrapped up in sepia tones and choral music… right up my street.

Tuesday, March 11th, 2003

My glamourous life

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy for me.

I haven’t been doing any large projects. Instead, I’ve been running around from new media company to new media company doing a spot of PHP here, a dab of JavaScript there, a tuck of HTML somewhere else.

In theory, it shouldn’t make any difference what site I’m working on when I only see a small detail of it.

But one day last week when I found myself hot-desking between three different agencies, I started the day working on a training module for optometrists (complete with graphic illustrations of deformed eyeballs) and I finished the day working on the website of the official Jordan fanclub.

That last one just felt so much more glamourous.

Thinking about it, there should be a way of combining the two projects or at least sharing some of the audience:

“Jordan fans; think you might be making yourself go blind? Find out by visiting the optemetrist’s training website!”

Saturday, March 8th, 2003

OS X software round-up

This is probably only going to be of interest to fellow mac-heads out there, so if talk of the latest OS X apps puts you to sleep, look away now.

First off, the browser formerly known as Chimera has reached version 0.7. Camino looks none the worse for its identity change and comes with a whole raft of improvements and updates.

Now here’s a handy little program: Cocktail doesn’t make your mac do anything it couldn’t do already but it does offer a much friendlier interface than typing in the command line. Cocktail allows you to run daily, weekly and monthly cron jobs at any time you want as well as house-cleaning chores like cleaning out log files and caches.

On a more whimsical note, Meteorologist gives you weather information in your menu bar. It takes the weather information from and can be configured to show multiple locations. I have it set up so I can see how my friends and family are doing in Baltimore, Cork, Seattle, Sierra Vista and Freiburg as well as being extremely lazy by having it show the current weather conditions in Brighton and Hove in case I’m too lazy to actually step aside.

Finally, there’s a mac program that’s been carbonised that’s of great interest to me.

Barfly is an ABC composer and converter. ABC is a file format for sharing tunes using simple ASCII notation. It’s the file format of choice for most Irish music websites including The Session.

When people submit tunes to The Session in ABC format, it’s up to me to convert those tunes into .gif and .midi files. Up ‘till now, I’ve been reliant on legacy OS 9 apps. In fact, pretty much the only reason why I run classic is to use those simple programs.

Now, with the new version of Barfly, I’ve become an OS X poster child. It’s especially handy not having to start up Classic on my iBook when I’m updating The Session.

And that concludes this round-up of new OS X applications.

Friday, March 7th, 2003

World of Ends

This is one the best articles about the fundamental nature of the internet that I’ve read.

What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else by Doc Searls and David Weinberger.

"Some mistakes we learn from. For example: Thinking that selling toys for pets on the Web is a great way to get rich. We’re not going to do that again.

Other mistakes we insist on making over and over."

Thursday, March 6th, 2003

They. They, they, they shine on.

Hidden away on the listings page for the Sussex Arts Club is the regular singer/songwriter Thursday night slot for March 20th.

A duo calling themselves "Terry & Guy" will be headlining.

What the listings page doesn’t mention is that Terry is Terry Bickers and Guy is Guy Chadwick. Together, they form the core of The House Of Love, one of the finest bands in the history of uh… fine bands.

This will be their first concert together in over ten years.

I am so there.

Call and response

I love it when the web works like this.

In his weblog, Jeffrey Zeldman comments on Safari’s implementation of the title attribute and favicons.

Dave Hyatt, one of the developers working on Safari, responds in his weblog before the day is out.

Do not adjust your set

The colours really are that vivid.

This cosy Afghan that Jessica is modelling was made by Jessica’s grandmother.

Jessica in a blanket

Tuesday, March 4th, 2003

Celebrity Hair

A transcript of part of an iChat conversation with Jamie over at Message:

“Hi Jamie. I was just crawling through my regular dose of RSS feeds and I came across a reference to your brother.”

(Jamie reads through the blog entry by Tom Coates)

“Well. Martin, being a mod, would probably DIE on hearing such rudeness! And I can personally vouch for the quality of his barnets when he’s in control of the situation (ie, not wearing TV hair for some part or other.) </bristle>!

Plus he’s not a celebrity, he’s an actor.”

“Hmm… I dunno; that dodgy ‘tache he was sporting on Later With Jools Holland is going to be hard to live down. No wonder he has a bad hair reputation.”

“I know - he even met Paul (The Modfather) Weller with that on! The shame. Still, better (as an actor) than wearing some dodgy stunt lip hair like vainer people would.”

Monday, March 3rd, 2003

Lost in Favicons

In the spirit of practising what I preach when it comes to web standards, I’ve re-written Jessica’s professional site, Lost in Translation, in XHTML strict and CSS.

The design of the site hasn’t changed at all but I did manage to get the page sizes down quite a bit just by tossing out the tables.

I also gave the site a spanking new favicon. In fact, I went a little favicon crazy and came up with one for Salter Cane, WordRidden and The Session too.

Ever since I started surfing the web with Safari, I’ve really grown to like those cute little icons that show up in the address bar when there’s a favicon present.

Saturday, March 1st, 2003

Data Structures and Algorithm Analysis in Java by Sarah Michelle Geller

Now that Sarah Michelle Geller is leaving Buffy behind her, I hope she will have more time to write books about algorithms and data structures using Java as the implementation tool:

“Sarah includes chapters on trees, hash tables, priority queues, sorting, the disjoint set algorithm, graph algorithms, algorithm design techniques, amortized analysis, and search tree algorithms, the -d tree and the pairing heap.

Sarah is also totally hot!”