Archive: April, 2003


                    5th                     10th                     15th                     20th                     25th                     30th

Tuesday, April 29th, 2003

Acquire, Manage, Listen

So we’re finally starting to see some sanity in the great “music biz vs. the rest of the world” conflict.

Apple’s iTunes Music Store is an important first step. It’s not perfect, but it marks the start of an online music distribution system that actually shows some respect for the consumer.

I downloaded the new version of iTunes and I’ve played around with the Music Store. It’s a lot of fun. Just browsing through all the songs available and listening to 30 second clips is absorbing. It’s very tempting to buy songs on impulse.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, considering how tempting the service is, I can’t purchase any music without an American billing address.

That’s one of the faults with the service but hopefully it will be opened up to more countries in the future.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if the price per song, currently $0.99, came down, probably to coincide with the service being opened up to Windows users (perhaps through a website rather than a desktop application).

For now, it’s an enjoyable, convenient, and above all, guilt-free way to download music.

There’s surprisingly little Digital Rights Management in place. In fact, the license that accompanies each download, allowing you to burn to CD and distribute copies on three computers, is less restrictive than the distribution rights that come with the purchase of songs on CD.

What would be really great (apart from opening up the service to worldwide use) would be if more independent labels offered songs through the Music Store. 95% of the stuff available through the big five labels is drivel. Still, that 5% of non-drivel represents a lot of potential downloads.

Like I said, it’s a good start.

There’s another nice feature in the new version of iTunes. You can automatically broadcast your playlists over your local network with Rendezvous.

Jessica and I have all our Macs sharing their playlists. Our network machines are named after postmodern novelists (well, it beats the usual Tolkien or Star Trek characters).

There’s my iMac, Joyce, with a playlist collection labelled The Brazen Head. My iBook, Gibson, is sharing The Chatsubo. Jessica’s iMac, Eco, has The Aedificium.

She hasn’t named the playlists on her iBook, Kafka yet. Maybe The Castle.

Sunday, April 27th, 2003

About this site

I’ve updated the "About" section of this site to include a new page about this site and how it was made.

It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while and it seemed the right thing to do on a long Sunday afternoon. I hope it’s of interest to some people.

Friday, April 25th, 2003

On the beach

Oh, dear. Brighton doesn’t fare too well in one man’s mission to rate the beaches of the world:

“Brighton had the dirtiest beach, alongside Bamburi in Mombassa, Kenya. It also had the least glamour, the worst view, the murkiest water, expensive sandwiches, “uncomfortable” pebbles, a lack of “fun” activities and only moderately friendly locals, although the waves were good.”

I think “moderately friendly locals” should be the new motto for Brighton and Hove.

To be fair, Brighton was only one of two European beaches to make into his list at all. Still, I’d be the first to admit that it can’t quite compare to Waikiki beach in Hawaii.

Design vs. syndication

This site has been getting mentioned in some good company lately.

Merci beaucoup to Emmanuel Clèment who likes the new sci-fi theme.

Ralf Graf lists this site as a source of inspiration alongside places like K10K. Vielen Dank, Ralf; sehr nett von dir.

What’s wierd is that Jeffrey Zeldman also names this site in the same sentence as K10K calling both “design-oriented, visually striking sites”.


Unfortunately, the rest of the entry is an argument against providing RSS feeds at sites like this. All is forgiven, though: he relents and starts rolling his own RSS feed a few entries later.

Personally, I really like using the RSS feed provided by K10K. I can keep track of the short little snippets in the newsposts box on the front page without having to go to the site and resize my browser window just to make it all fit.

I still visit the site when there’s a new issue available, which I’ll know about straight away, of course, thanks to the same RSS feed.

RSS rocks, Jeffrey; don’t try to fight it.

I, for one, would like to welcome our new RSS overlords.

Design vs. legibility

The Designer is a very pretty looking site that publishes a PDF design magazine.

Unfortunately, the front page of the site is completely illegible. Headings are readable, links just about stand out but the actual text is tiny flesh-coloured type on a flesh-coloured background.

I was genuinely interested in reading the content but my eyeballs started to complain about the inordinate amount of overtime they were being forced to work.

Thursday, April 24th, 2003

Sci-fi skin

I’ve been laid up with a nasty cold since yesterday, probably due to the schizophrenic moodswings in the weather lately.

I haven’t just been snuffling, moping and feeling sorry for myself, though. I decided to channel my somewhat sapped energy into creating a new theme for this site.

This time, I’ve been inspired by my slowly expanding DVD collection. Specifically, I’ve been rediscovering the wonder and excitement of good science fiction.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the sci-fi theme.

I grabbed some of the most arresting images I could from movies like Alien, The Matrix, Attack Of The Clones and Lord Of The Rings. Grabbing screenshots from DVDs isn’t easy either. Most system screengrabbers refuse to take pictures of DVD movies.

Luckily for me, there’s a really handy little app for OS X called Image Well. It sits in the menu bar and lets you quickly and easily edit pictures and even FTP them to a server. It also has a built in screengrab function that works on DVDs.

Once I had the images I wanted, I still had a lot of Photoshop work to do. That was actually a lot of fun. I’ve been messing around in Photoshop a lot lately and I’ve come up with some pretty nifty effects that I’ll share here soon.

Once I had the images looking exactly the way I wanted, it was time to do all the CSS for the new theme.

It was a breeze.

When I think back to what it used to be like, kludging tables and trying to get everything to work on browsers like Netscape 4… *shudder*

I’m pretty happy with this theme. I was even able to get in a little nod to another classic science fiction movie by having the navigation reside in a monolith.

Oh, by the way, the usual disclaimers apply about this site being in no way affiliated with Lucasfilm, Warner Brothers, Newline Cinema, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2003

Surfin' Safari

All software development should be this efficient and transparent:

Dave Hyatt has been working hard at implementing the CSS "overflow" property in Safari. It’s something I submitted as a bug report a while back.

Well, it looks like he’s cracked it.

And what site did he test it on?

Yeah, okay, the International Herald Tribune, but apart from that; what site did he test it on?

The hi-tech theme right here.

Sunday, April 20th, 2003


I’ve cobbled together a little WAP version of this journal.

Point your mobiles to

It’s very, very basic; just a selection of the latest journal entries but it might provide some entertainment if you use your mobile ‘phone to while away the hours whilst waiting for something else like a train, a date or a waitress (or all three if you like to arrange your assignations in the Freud-meets-Hitchcock atmosphere of a train’s dining car).

You will find long sentences like that one extemely tiring to read on the cramped interface of your mobile ‘phone.

Saturday, April 19th, 2003

e-Book Review

I was bemused to see that an e-book version of Down And Out In the Magic Kingdom for Microsoft Reader is available for purchase at Amazon.

My bemusement stems from the fact that while the e-book version costs $22.95 and doesn’t allow printing or copying, completely free versions of the same book are available for download in unrestricted electronic formats with the blessing and encouragement of the author.

I submitted a review to Amazon praising the book but discouraging people from paying for the e-book version.

Fair play to Amazon; they published it.

They removed the link I had included to the downloadable versions of the book at the author’s site, but I’ll be charitable and assume that that’s due to a general policy at Amazon of not allowing links to external sites in customer reviews.

Friday, April 18th, 2003

Netdiver interviews Eric Meyer

This site, along with that of fellow Brightonian Richard Rutter, gets namechecked during an excellent interview with CSS guru, Eric Meyer:

"Q:Why do CSS-driven sites have a reputation for being dull and boring?"

"A: Because most of them are. We could claim that CSS designers are actually minimalists, but the truth is that most early adopters of CSS just didn’t have strong design skills, myself among them. The other major handicap designers face is that moving to CSS means using a lot of text, and the ability to control (or even influence) typography is rudimentary at best. I believe the poor state of typographic styling might be the biggest obstacle to widespread CSS adoption right now.

Still, nobody claims that oil painting is a boring medium just because Bob Ross produced so much stuff. While an artist is certainly limited by his medium, it’s more often the case that the medium is limited by its artists. Until a Picasso or Serat comes along, you don’t truly appreciate what the medium can produce. As more designers come to use CSS, we’ll see more compelling CSS-driven sites. Wired News is a good example of this, as is ESPN. There are others, including,,,,, and more."


When I was designing in its present form, I had two main goals. One was simply to show off; as a freelancer, my website needs to reflect my skills and the kind of work that clients can expect from me.

The other reason was to combat the FUD surrounding CSS based design. There are far too many webmonkeys out there that associate CSS with boring design. I wanted this site to be ammo in my arsenal so that when somebody asked what CSS was capable of, I could point them here and let them loose with the stylesheet switching widget.

Having Eric Meyer name-check this site as an example good CSS-based design gives me a warm fuzzy glow. I think this is what vindication feels like.

Planes, Trains and Acute Respiratory Syndrome

I had the opportunity yesterday to dine in a very swanky restaurant in the heart of London overlooking Hyde Park.

The comfort and elegance of the meal was in stark contrast to the journey home afterwards.

A combination of the Easter weekend, people knocking off early from work and an ill-timed rail strike meant that travellers on the London to Brighton train were packed in like sardines.

It was a journey of three parts. For the first third of the journey, from London to East Croyden, I was standing the whole time.

From East Croyden to Gatwick, I was able to sit down and even sleep with my head titled at a 45 degree angle on Jessica’s shoulder.

The last part of the journey was the worst.

The woman who got on at Gatwick and sat next to me was more fidgety than a child. She pulled out a hardback book of such dimensions that each turn of the page was accompanied by a poke of her elbow into my ribs.

Also, she coughed at fairly regular intervals. Worringly, none of these coughs were accompanied by a poke of her elbow. Ergo, she was not raising her hand to cover her mouth when she coughed.

She was coughing into the shared air of the train compartment. She had a suitcase with her. She boarded the train at Gatwick airport.

With my luck, she had just arrived back from a holiday in Hong Kong.

Wednesday, April 16th, 2003

Hot days, crazy nights

It was a gorgeously hot sunny day today.

Now it’s a warm, balmy evening, there’s a big football match on and there’s a full moon. Brighton likes to party on nights like these.

I’m staying in but I have a feeling that I’m in for a restless night of rowdy interruptions.

Tuesday, April 15th, 2003

Safari Public Beta 2

There’s a new Public Beta of Safari available for download.

I’ve been using an unofficial build of the browser up ‘till now so tabbed browsing isn’t a new addition for me but there’s still a truckload of improvements in Public Beta 2.

I particularly like having the option of opening links from external applications in new tabs rather than spawning new windows. Very handy, considering how much of my web surfing is led by NetNewsWire.

I was hoping that this release of Safari would fix the "overflow: auto" stylesheet declaration so that the hi-tech skin for this site would display correctly.

It isn’t fixed yet but Dave Hyatt is on top of it.

Monday, April 14th, 2003


I’m the luckiest geek alive.

My lovely wife knitted… what is the past tense of "knit" anyway? Knit? Knitted? Knat? Knut?

Anyway, Jessica made me a beautiful little pouch for my USB Bluetooth adapter. It even has the Bluetooth symbol.

It’s like a tea-cosy except instead of going on a teapot, it goes on a dongle. It’s a dongle-cosy.

So, am I an Über-geek for having a handmade dongle-cosy or is Jessica even geekier for making it for me?

the Bluetooth dongle next to its cosy

Saturday, April 12th, 2003

Gladiator's Stroke Of Genius

There’s a reason for this post’s unusual headline: I’m doing some small scale googlebombing.

I’ll need to back up a little to explain…

I have a weakness for Doritos. Specifically, I have a penchant for the Cooler Ranch flavour which comes in the appropriately named “movie bag” sized packet.

Right now, Doritos are running a promotion in conjunction with Blockbuster. One in four packets of Doritos have scratchcards inside. On each of these scratchcards is a movie-related clue. To claim your prize of one free movie rental, you write down what you think the movie in question is, bring the card along to a Blockbuster outlet and one of the employees there will scratch the card to reveal the true answer.

That’s kind of a frightening thought, actually. What if you get it wrong? Will the guy behind the counter point and laugh at you?

“No, you idiot! Wrong, wrong, wrong!”

Anyway, I found one of these scratchcards in my movie bag. The clue was “Gladiator’s Stroke Of Genius”. My deductive powers led me to believe that the movie in question was A Beautiful Mind (Gladiator, Russell Crowe, genius… natch).

Still, I wasn’t 100% sure and with visions of possible humiliation at the hands of Blockbuster employees, I turned to the web for confirmation.

A Google search for the exact phrase returned nothing. I was on my own.

As it turned out, I was right. Instead of humiliation, I got a free movie for a night.

But it struck me that maybe I should get the ball rolling on using Google to the betterment of my fellow man. Hence, this entry.

A googlebot will hopefully spider this site sometime in the next week. When that happens, searching for the exact phrase “Gladiator’s Stroke Of Genius” should bring up this journal entry and I’ll be able to confirm the suspicions of my fellow Doritos munching, movie loving public.

I have no idea how many different scratchcards there are in those Doritos packets but, you never know, I might be helping somebody watch a movie for free.

(The T&Cs of the competition make no mention of what is or is not allowed once the prize has been claimed so I’m obeying the letter, if perhaps not the spirit, of the competition).

I claimed my prize of one night’s rental of Road To Perdition, just released on DVD. Very enjoyable it was, too.

Goes nicely with a bag of Doritos.

UPDATE: Check out this thread at Jessica’s site for more answers to the competition clues.

Where's my flying car?

Now I know I’m living in the future.

When I come home, my computer speaks to me, telling me how many new emails I have.

Listening to iTunes, I can control the volume, skip between songs and search for specific songs even when I’m lazing on the bed on the other side of the room.

The secret behind this devilry is Bluetooth. More specifically, Bluetooth plus my Sony Ericsson T68i plus a USB Bluetooth adapter plus Sony Ericsson Clicker.

I got the adapter yesterday. Uploading all my contacts and calendars from my Mac was fairly straightforward.

The adapter came with instructions for various operating systems. Different flavours of windows required 5 to 6 steps to set up the machine for Bluetooth. The instructions for Mac OS X consisted of one step: put the adapter in the USB port.

The real fun started once I downloaded Sony Ericsson Clicker. There’s something very futuristic about controlling a computer from a ‘phone. Why can’t all technology be as cool as this? Why aren’t we all living on the moon driving flying cars?

I used the Sony Ericsson T68i as a remote control while watching a DVD last night. But more on that anon…

Friday, April 11th, 2003

Downloadable fun

A spectacular car chase, bullet time, people flying through the air…

No, it’s not the latest trailer for The Matrix Reloaded, it’s Tom the Cat.

Thursday, April 10th, 2003

Live from Baghdad

"Men, we have got to find Saddam Hussein."

"Sir, we’ve found him, sir!"

"Excellent work. men. Lead me to him."

"Sir, it’s not exactly Saddam Hussein, sir! It’s… a statue, sir."


"Sir, it’s even bigger than a real Saddam Hussein, sir! And it’s made out of metal, sir!"

"Hmmm… you’re right. If we tied a rope around a real Saddam Hussein and pulled on it with a tank, well that would just look kind of… pathetic. Not telegenic enough. There just wouldn’t be the same amount of symbolism somehow."

"Sir, permission to search for over a thousand paperweights of Iraqi civilians to symbolically destroy, sir!"

"Permission granted, men, permission granted. The iraqi people have already given us the ‘thumbs up’. I’ll alert the press."

Wednesday, April 9th, 2003


I finally succumbed and got myself a mobile ‘phone.

I hope that this doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to turn into one of those annoying people that talks far too loudly and obnoxiously in public. I certainly hope I don’t turn into one of those people that stands at baggage carousels at airports when their ‘plane has just landed with their mobile ‘phones pressed against their faces telling the people on the other end such insightful breaking news as “I’m at the baggage carousel” or “my plane has just landed”.

For the ‘phone spotters amongst you, I have a Sony Ericsson T68i.

Now all I need to get is a USB Bluetooth Adapter and I can start syncing the calendars and addresses on my computer with the ‘phone.

Best of all, I can get that really nifty piece of software that will allow me to control DVDs and MP3 playback from my ‘phone.

Oh, yeah… and apparently I can use it to make telephone calls too.

Sunday, April 6th, 2003

One Cool Cucumber

Bleeding ears, stiff upper lip… it must be John Simpson:

"I think I’ve just got a bit of shrapnel in the leg, that’s all."

Saturday, April 5th, 2003

Little wireless wonder

I have my new iBook. More importantly, I have extra RAM and an airport card for my new iBook.

The actual laptop showed up a few days ago after I snapped it up on Apple’s refurb store. Since then, though, I’ve felt tethered by the lack of wirelessness.

Today, the RAM and airport card showed up. Now, with the airport card installed and the RAM bumped up from 128 to 640K, the iBook really comes into its own.

The installation would have been really straightforward if it weren’t for two annoyingly tiny and tight little screws inside the iBook. If you ever find yourself in the same situation, you will need a #0 Philip’s screwdriver. I had to nip out to the shops to get one.

Once those screws finally came free, it was easy to slip in the RAM and airport card. Now I’ve got a zippy little iBook that’s connected to a wireless network and able intentsive apps like Virtual PC and Photoshop.

It’s an indispensible tool for a hot desking freelance web developer like myself.

Friday, April 4th, 2003

Cog movie

Forget Russian Ark; here’s a really impressive one-shot movie.

Thanks to fellow Brightonite, Pete Barr-Watson for the heads-up.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2003

Nitpicking the news

From the department of redundancy department:

"Republicans yesterday joined them yesterday…"

Tuesday, April 1st, 2003


Following Ben and Meg’s lead, I’ve added the nifty IndyJunior Flash app to my "About" section.

Behold the travels of your humble narrator rendered in all their vectorised glory.

I played around with the source code using the Flash Satay method to get the page to validate.