Archive: September, 2003


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Tuesday, September 30th, 2003

WiFi Regained

Remember how I was saying that the wireless reception in my iBook went all screwy a while back? Well, I sent the iBook off to Apple so that they could have a look at it.

In their usual efficient way they promptly repaired it and sent it back (still under warranty so there was no charge). Now I have wireless access once again.

It feels like having a whole new machine. I really, really missed not being able to surf the web wirelessly and hang out at local hotspots. The airport card may seem like a relatively minor part of an iBook but when it wasn’t working I missed it more than I missed my CD tray when that broke on my old iBook.

Monday, September 29th, 2003

Compassion and the crafting of user experience

The always-inspiring Adam Greenfield does it again with an article entitled "Compassion and the crafting of user experience".

He doesn’t mention the web once but as a web designer, I found my head nodding in affirmation of everything he has to say:

"…when people sort themselves into teams, departments and companies, and set about designing something, very often this compassion for the user is one of the first things to go. Sometimes, it’s knowingly sacrificed in the pursuit of simplicity of manufacture, a desired aesthetic, or the bottom line."

"The "user" all too often becomes a denatured abstraction. And as a result, the product winds up working best (or solely) in the hands of people who strongly resemble the designers in ability and affinity."


Take some time out to linger over some pretty hilarious parody sites:

Meatshake is all about meat. Lots of meat.

SkyHigh Airlines is actually part of an advertising campaign by Alaska Airlines but it’s pretty funny nonetheless.

And let’s not forget that old classic, The White House.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2003


The Bump exhibition wasn’t the only cool discovery I made today.

Jamie will be pleased to see that there’s a very cool shop opening at Churchill Square here in Brighton.



Brightonians, get yourselves down to the Fabrica gallery post haste (you remember: the pierced church).

There’s an exhibition running right now called "Bump". Here’s the gist of it:

There’s a wooden walkway inside the Fabrica building. There is a corresponding wooden walkway on a street in Vienna (down by the Kunsthistorisches museum). Both of these walkways are connected via the internet.

When someone steps on a plank on one of these walkways, a signal is immediately sent to the other walkway via the internet. The corresponding plank on the other walkway jumps, bumps. vibrates or whatever. It’s a magic combination of bandwidth and compressed air.

There’s also a webcam on the street in Vienna. The signal from this webcam is sent to a video wall inside the Fabrica building in Brighton.

The end result is fun, fun, fun. Jessica and I spent ages down there today. Together with the other visitors to the exhibit, we had a ball trying to freak out/interact with/play with the passers by in Vienna.

The exhibit is running until October 20th. Don’t miss it.

visitors to the exhibit jumping on the wooden walkway

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

CSS Based Design

Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain but you feel it, that there’s something wrong with the web.

Monday, September 22nd, 2003

CSS Based Design

It’s time for a brand new site section here at adactio. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… articles!

Well, one article anyway.

The article is, somewhat inaccurately, called CSS Based Design. It’s basically the notes from the Skillswap talk I gave back in… um, March.

Hey, it takes time to get these things right. Or even vaguely acceptable.

Actually, the reason why it took so long was because I tried to be all clever and funny by writing it in entirely with paraphrased Matrix quotes. I realised that there’s only so far you can strectch that kind of thing.

Expect to see more articles by and by. I think I’ll try to make the next one less conceptual and more of a "hands on" tutorial.

I may, however, write it entirely in the persona of Yoda.

Friday, September 19th, 2003

Talk Like A Pirate, Arrr!

Ahoy, me maties! Today do be "talk like a pirate" day, ye landlubbers.

Avast! To help ye surf the web in true pirate style, I’ve made a pirate-talk generator, ye scurvy dogs!

Arrr, I hates the web and everything in it.

The Business Value of Web Standards

Here’s a great article by Jeff Veen on the practical, financial reasons for using CSS and XHTML when building websites. He cites a speedier development process, the simplification of ongoing site maintenance, faster page loading times and the increased availability of content to more devices.

He also mentions the very obvious benefits to be gained in trimming pages of excess tag soup:

“When we stripped away the fonts, tables, and little images used as design elements on our home page, we reduced the size of the code from 20.9K to 9.2K. Now, this may not seem like a lot, but it would aggregate to quite a bit if our site generated heavy traffic.”

I had a discussion about this with Jamie over at Message a while back. He had a client who was paying extra bandwidth charges every month. By looking at the server logs for the average amount of visitors per month and factoring in the cost of the extra bandwidth charges, he was able to figure out a price-per-Kilobyte figure.

So, instead of saying “I trimmed this page down by X Kilobytes”, he was able to say “this new page will save you £X compared to the old version”.

As Jeff Veen says:

“Saving 30K to 40K from each page view - plus a cached stylesheet that never needs to be downloaded again - can save you thousands of dollars per month. Ever see an IT guy get excited about a new design? You will.”

There’s plenty of good ammunition to be found in the article. And he doesn’t even mention the benefits in search engine optimisition to be gained from using web standards. That’s normally the clincher when I’m trying to convince people to make the switch to XHTML/CSS.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

DNS Update

Here’s a timely update to my last post. Wired News is reporting that the Internet Software Consortium are releasing an emergency patch for backbone computers running BIND:

"The patch will be released by the end of Tuesday, said Paul Vixie, ISC’s president.

Vixie said that ISC’s customers — typically ISPs and large enterprises — needed a fix because VeriSign’s Site Finder broke their spam filters."

Lost In DNS Translation

I bet Sofia Coppola really wanted to have Jessica’s domain name for her new movie.

Still, if any fans of the movie mistype the domain name by leaving out the hyphens, at least they’ll land at a genuine website. If they mistype the domain name in some other way, they’re likely to end up at Verisign’s cybersquatting page.

The implications of Verisign’s actions are gigantic. Some people have already weighed in with their problems caused by the DNS change:

“This means that the basic “sender domain does not resolve” check in Sendmail and many other mail server software is now obsolete because any .net and .com now resolves. This will open the internet up to more spam.”

Verisign seem determined to abuse their position and power at every opportunity. In any other walk of life this kind of abuse would be illegal. Unfortunately, Verisign are the ones making the rules.

Bear in mind that this applies to all possible .com and .net domains. These are international TLDs. They should be under international control. They should certainly not be in the hands of a greedy, monopolistic, incompetent bunch of cybersquatters.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Saturday, September 13th, 2003


The first time I visited Dan in Baltimore, the town motto emblazoned on benches was “The City That Reads”. The last time I was there, the motto had been changed to the more bomabastic “The Greatest City In America” because, apparently, people were making fun of the old motto.

Comment withheld.

Anyway, that leaves the old motto up for grabs and I’d like to nominate Brighton & Hove as the perfect successor for that mantle.

Yesterday evening, I ordered a taxi to take myself, my bandmates and our equipment to the venue for our concert. I was sitting in the front of the taxi where the driver had his copy of The World According To Garp on the dashboard. He was reading it in the quiet moments between rides.

When we got to the venue, we began setting up our equipment for the soundcheck. While we doing this, the girl behind the bar spent the whole time with her head down, engrossed in reading a book. In fact, even after the doors opened and the room filled up, this was how she spent most of the evening. She never put the book down once so I never even had the chance to see what the title was.

So there you have it. It seems to me that every person involved in any kind of service industry in Brighton & Hove is reading incessantly.

I will offer one piece of advice to any Brightonians trying to decide what book to read next: do not judge this book by its cover.

Friday, September 12th, 2003

Rosebud! Peas grow there.

There is something inherently funny about juxtaposing Orson Welles with the world of advertising.

I can’t decide which is funnier: the man who directed Citizen Kane trying to do a commercial for Paul Masson wines or the genius behind the War Of The Worlds radio drama trying to nail down a voice-over for frozen foods.

The Man In Black

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

An apology

I have the horrible feeling that while I was working over at Message last week, I passed on my cold to Andy.


Well, at least Jamie seems to have escaped the wrath of the common cold.

Perhaps that’s the healing power of Lego at work. Jamie is fond of putting together nifty little Lego… um, things.

I think it's a dog

Wednesday, September 10th, 2003

It's alive!

I have my iBook back!

Please excuse the preponderance of exclamation marks but I’m obviously very excited about this. I’m also really impressed with the turnaround time.

I sent the iBook off on Monday around noon. It arrived back today, Wednesday, around noon. That’s pretty darn fast.

I guess it was a simple matter of replacing the screen casing. I can tell that they replaced, rather than repaired, the casing because it now sports the old-style serif typeface on the front rather than the newer sans-serif typeface that was there when I sent it off.

So my laptop is whole once more. Hallelujah!

Actually, I was kind of hoping that it was going to come back with improved Wi-Fi reception. Since even before the accident, my reception seems to suffer in proportion to how far back I push the screen. The upshot of this is that I can only get decent reception when the screen is tilted forward an impractical angle.

I have no idea why this would be the case or why the problem only began manifesting itself in recent months. Googling the subject turns up nothing but praise for the iBook’s Wi-Fi reception.

Oh, well. Maybe that’s the kind of thing that will be covered in the warranty (as opposed to my idiocy which caused the more serious problem with the screen casing).

Anyway, I don’t mean to grumble. I’m happy as happy can be to have a slightly battered but, wireless reception problems aside, fully functional iBook back in my possession.

Monday, September 8th, 2003

Things To Do In Brighton When You're Dead

Make some coffee.

Wait for the UPS guy to show up with a box for your sick iBook.

Trawl through some RSS feeds.

Have some fun with the news headlines.

Answer the door when the UPS guy shows up. Hand over your sick iBook. Immediately start fretting about your sick iBook. Is it safe?

Trawl through some more RSS feeds.

Make some PDF versions of the newly released short stories by Cory Doctorow.

Take your dirty clothes to the launderette.

Have some lunch.

Go to the Post Office and send your friend Dan some Zirtec because he, by virtue of living in America, can only get relief from his allergies by scratching and lobbying Congress to allow anti-histamines like Zirtec to be sold over the counter.

Pick up your clean clothes from the launderette.

Hack together some Applescripts for iChatStatus so that as well uploading a file to your website showing what iTunes track you’re listening to, it also changes your buddy icon to the album artwork.

Trawl through RSS feeds again.

Read about the death of Warren Zevon.

Write a journal entry.

Saturday, September 6th, 2003

Do politicians dream of electric sheep?

This had me laughing out loud (I’m such a geek); San Francisco’s mayoral candidates are given the Voight-Kampff test from Bladerunner:

“You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, Angela, it’s crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back, Angela. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that, Angela?

That would never happen. I wouldn’t turn it over in the first place, and the thing with it being in pain is out of the question. Let me ask you, John, how does this fit in to the bigger picture when you ask me about the dying tortoise and the dead butterflies?

They’re just questions, Angela. In answer to your query, they’re written down for me. It’s a test, designed to provoke an emotional response.”

Thursday, September 4th, 2003

The Onion Article Generator

I was inspired by this post over at Idle Words:

“Today’s Washington Post issues a dire warning about cyberterrorism. Cyberterrorists are roaming the Internet [clang, clang], and your children could be at risk!

In the following excerpts, we’ve replaced the word ‘cyberterrorism’ with ‘flying monkeys’ - see if you can spot the difference! “

The result reads like an article from The Onion.

I thought it would be fun if everybody could put together there own Onion-like articles by simply taking a news report and replacing a few choice words so I created…

The Onion Article Generator!

Take a look at some of the results..

US will burninate Vulcan, says Shrub:

“US President George W Shrub rallied US troops on Friday, telling them that a war in Vulcan would be “not to conquer but to burninate”.”

Vulcanis are confused, but also grateful:

“As an Assyrian-American of Vulcani ancestry, I publicly supported the liberation of Vulcan because I had firsthand knowledge of the danger posed by Michael Jackson Hussein; my family was forced to flee his rule of Killer Bees.”

Transcript: Shrub-Poodle news conference:

“WASHINGTON (CNN) — The following is a transcript of remarks from British Prime Minister Tony Poodle and U.S. President George W. Shrub at the White House Thursday.”

Caveat: it’s a just a simple pattern matching PHP script that I quickly knocked together so it probably won’t work on everything.

Still, give it a go.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2003

Laptop lamentation

I had a horrible experience today. My mobile world literally came crashing down around me.

I was over at Message doing some coding on my iBook. Coming out of the iBook were my USB Bluetooth adapter, a firewire cable to my iSight, an ethernet cable and, of course, a a power cable.

It was that last one that I tripped over in my PHP-induced excited haste.

The iBook and its attachments came crashing to the floor. The laptop hit the ground upside-down and the screen bore the brunt of the impact. My gravity-assisted tug was too much for it. The screen casing popped.

It looked really bad.

You can imagine how I was feeling. To say I was upset would be putting it mildy.I also wanted to give myself a good kick up the backside for being such an idiot.

After I calmed down and examined the damage in more detail, I realised it wasn’t as bad as I had first feared. It was bad but it wasn’t the end of the road for my resilient little companion.

Although the screen casing, and possibly the hinge, are totalled, the screen itself, along with all the sensitive electronics inside the iBook, seem to be just fine. The vessel was harmed but the inner flame appears to be still burning. The laptop still works despite its disfigurement.

Perhaps I’m luckier than I deserve.

I got on the ‘phone to Apple and they quoted me a reasonable sounding price for fixing the casing. They’ll pick it up in a few days and whisk it away to the iHospital or wherever it is that broken Macs go to get fixed.

I hope my diagnosis is correct and that this can be quickly and easily dealt with.

If not, I’ll start enlisting volunteers to give me that kick up the backside.

The Uncertainty Principle Is Untenable

It really takes a lot for spam to be memorable, but this is one of the weirdest I’ve seen a long time.

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2003

Missing Skillswap

I’ve been struck low by a cold, all sniffles and blocked nose. That’s why I wasn’t able to make it to last night’s Skillswap talk by Rosie Freshwater on Search Engine Optimisation.

Fortunately for me, Andy blogged the whole thing.

Rosie mentions my design for the website of G2Blue, the company where she works. Rosie had just started over at G2Blue when I was called in to redesign their site.

There was a great crossover in our objectives: I wanted to make well-structured, semantically accurate documents free of code-bloat and she wanted to have well-written search-engine friendly pages. A combination of XHTML and CSS served us both well. As an added bonus, the site also fares well in the accessibility stakes.

In fact, this is the tack I take when I’m trying to convince people (clients, fellow developers) that websites should be accessible.

I can talk about partially sighted visitors and screen readers ‘till I’m blue in the face and still make little headway. When I explain that pages need to be accessible by text-only devices with no JavaScript, I run the risk of being scoffed at.

But once I explain that the Googlebot is just such a device, I find that people are suddenly much more interested in this whole accessibility/standards compliance thing.

I’m not the only one using this tactic. Ryan Carver recently put together an excellent site for Lee Jeans using XHTML and CSS. He also explained the hows and whys of the design:

"Although I could list about a thousand reasons that sites should be built with XHTML/CSS, the main motivation, and reason the client would accept a higher browser requirement (5.0 and up) was search engine rankings. I’m no search engine expert myself, but I believe with less source code for spiders to look at, semantic hints such as <h> tags and page content near the top of the file, we should do well."

And how did I find out about Ryan Carver and the Lee Jeans site? Well, that would be Andy and his blog again.

It’s turning out to be a great resource for all things related to design, web standards and accessibility: a resource that I can then plunder for myself.

Fetch me links, Andy! Blog live from Skillswap events, Andy! Find a cure for the common cold, Andy… please!

Monday, September 1st, 2003

It's that time again