Archive: February, 2004


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Friday, February 27th, 2004


I’m off to Dorset. Whatever the collective noun for blogger is, there’s going to be one of them this weekend.

Dunstan has invited a bunch of us down for a few days in the countryside. He doesn’t know what he’s letting himself in for.

Myself, Andy and Richard are driving down from Brighton this evening. Jon and Stuart will show up tomorrow.

I’m sure plenty of pictures will be taken and much blogging will ensue.

Thursday, February 26th, 2004

Futurlab shindig

I’m down at the Sussex Arts Club enjoying the hospitality of new web kids on the block, Futurlab ("we got rid of the ‘e’ and passed the savings on to you").

Any party that supplies free Wi-Fi is a winner in my (i)book.

Here are (some of) the hosts for the evening: Andy (a fellow standards compliance bod) and James.

Andy and James

The big smoke

Yesterday was my birthday (discretion prevents me from revealing my current age).

Handily enough, there was a pre-planned shindig happening: a concert featuring Salter Cane and three other bands (not in my honour, you understand). Less handy was the fact that the concert took place in London.

Much driving and map reading was involved once we had crammed ourselves and our instruments into our little transportation device. We were like the country bumpkins heading off to the Capitol City to gape at its high-falutin’ modern ways.

The concert went okay. One of the other bands, The Shout Out Louds, who were great, came all the way from Sweden. That made the drive up from Brighton seem like a bit less of an odyssey.

My birthday celebrations had to wait until after we had played: despite being a common rock’n’roll combination, alcohol and music don’t mix. Our drummer, Catherine, brought along a bottle of fine champagne to toast my birthday and she managed to blag some glasses from the bar staff.

Driving back through London, crossing the Thames over Tower Bridge, I was struck as always by the sheer weight of history pressing down on almost every inch of the city.

Then again, that might just be because I’m in the middle of reading Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, set largely in 17th century London.

It’s an amazing city although I’m not sure I’d want to live there; it felt awfully nice to get back to the relative tranquility of Brighton. Still, I really need to make an effort to get up there more often.

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004


I took a trip on Friday to see the good folks over at Motionpath.

Their new office is in deepest, darkest Kemptown. That entailed a pleasant walk, taking in the sights of that end of town: delis, music shops, members of Supergrass.

Anyway, I had nice little tour of the new Motionpath office. They’ve got the place fitted with all the mod cons, most importantly Wi-Fi. Just about everyone there has a nice desk, an ergonomic chair and dual monitors.

Looking at the Matix-like increase in productivity that comes with having dual monitors, I was wishing there was some way I could use my iBook screen together with my iMac.

Well, wish no more. Todd Dominey points to an incredible little OS X app called Teleport.

Technically, it’s not the same as dual monitors. Instead, it allows you to contol two computers from the same input devices. So, you move the cursor to the edge of one screen and, voila!, it appears over on the other.

It’s like magic. Free beta magic.

I guess it’s not for everybody but if, like me, you have a desktop machine and a laptop, this is perfect.

Friday, February 20th, 2004

Born free

I’ve added my Javascript Image Gallery to the articles section here at adactio.

Since it’s release into the wild, the script has been spotted in diverse locations.

Jamie from Message used the script to post up pictures of his local panto awards dinner.

Meanwhile, over at the beautiful Twinsparc website, the script is being used ever so tastefully on the front page.

Run free, little script. Perhaps we will meet by chance some day as I make way through the wild, wild web.

They'll bomb us into last week!

Either the BBC are getting lazy or the Russians are making some pretty outrageous claims:

"Colonel Baluyevsky gave few details of the new missile which was tested on Wednesday, but said it was one that moved five times the speed of light."

Actually, I’m guessing it’s the former. I’m also guessing that the BBC will cop on to their little snafu. That’s why I took the liberty of grabbing a screenshot.

Colonel Baluyevsky gave few details of the new missile which was tested on Wednesday, but said it was one that moved five times the speed of light.

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

iLove the iLife I iLive

On Monday, I placed an order at the Apple Store online. The delivery time was estimated at three to seven working days. My order showed up within 48 hours.

I invested in an AppleCare Protection Plan for my iBook. It’s a good idea for desktops and an absolute must for laptops, especially given my track record.

I also got more memory for my iMac. When I ordered my iMac, I filled up the first memory slot to its maximum capacity but left the second slot free for exactly this contingency.

Normally, my iMac runs just spiffily but sometimes, when I want to run Virtual PC, I find I have to shut down PhotoShop and other applications so that it runs with a modicum of speed. Again, I went for the maximum so my iMac’s memory has now been doubled from 512K to 1GB.

Lastly, I ordered iLife ‘04. This was a fraction of the cost of either the AppleCare Protection Plan or the memory but it’s by far the most exciting of the three purchases.

I won’t go into too much detail about the improvements to iPhoto and iMovie but both applications feel a lot zippier and have some very handy new features. I’m particularly excited about the capability of iMovie to record straight from iSight.

The jewel in the crown of iLife, though, is undoubtably GarageBand.

Excuse the pun, but this application seriously rocks. I opened it up just to have a quick peek at the interface but within five minutes I had put together a coherent, if somewhat cheesy, piece of music.

Using GarageBand is extremely intuitive. That gives it edge over the more powerful, more expensive, commercial recording software. What also sets it apart is simply how much fun it is to use.

Don’t be surprised if this site gets a little neglected in the near future. I may be spending a significant amount of my waking life playing with GarageBand. I’ll resist the urge to post my juvenile musical dabblings up here.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2004

The three ages of geekdom

The past:

Webmonkey is no more. It’s gone but certainly not forgotten by this particular net simian. I learned a heck of a lot about building websites from old articles on Webmonkey.

Sleep, good Webmonkey. And remember, old Webmonkies never die: they just get superceded by A List Apart.

Can you tell that I like the word Webmonkey?

The present:

Apple has gone RSS crazy. A veritable smorgasbord of XML goodness has appeared on the Apple site.

The future:

A USB microscope. This is what USB was invented for. Heck, this is what computers were invented for. How come I don’t find out about these things until I read about someone selling theirs?

Monday, February 16th, 2004

The C in CSS

I’ve been tidying up the stylesheets around here. Everything should look exactly the same, just executed more economically.

Mostly I’ve been taking advantage of the cascading part of Cascading Style Sheets.

Up ‘till now, every theme here has had one stylesheet for the front page and another for everything else (simply because the page layout on the front page differs from all the other pages). Now I’ve merged the two stylesheets into one. I added a unique identifier to the <body> tag on the front page and I use selectors to target <div>s specifically on that page, over-riding the settings for other pages.

To avoid any weird caching problems, I also changed the names of the stylesheets.

Like I said, everything should look the same as always. If this site suddenly look awry in your browser, please let me know.

Friday, February 13th, 2004

Adopt, adapt and improve

My JavaScript Image Gallery script has been embraced and extended to produce this very neat image gallery which uses some nifty DHTML to provide three "pages" of thumbnails without any page refreshes.


Thursday, February 12th, 2004

My iBook is iBack

All is well with the world once again. UPS delivered my iBook this morning after trying and failing yesterday morning (nobody home).

The Apple doctors appear to have fixed what was ailing it and I can stop timesharing Jessica’s laptop.

Still, I have a new appreciation for the power of fast user switching. It’s like moving into a friend’s apartment for a week but with the ability to make it look and feel just like home at the flick of a switch.

PHP sendmail frustration

I spent hours last night tearing my hair out trying to fix a mystifying PHP problem.

My Irish music website, The Session, has a "forgotten your password?" feature. It’s a typical feature of a community website. If someone can’t recall their username or password, they simply have to enter their email address to have their details mailed to them.

In the case of The Session, they receive an email with the subject line "Your details from The Session" which contains the relevant log-on details.

At least, that’s what supposed to happen. I had an email from someone who attempted to do just that but they were still waiting for their email.

I tested the "forgotten your password?" feature and, sure enough, it wasn’t working. I started to pull my scripts apart to see if I could figure out what the problem was.

I was able to conclude fairly quickly that it wasn’t a fundamental problem with PHP interacting with sendmail: my contact page was still working just fine.

I tried reformulating my scripts. I tried googling for accounts of similar problems. I tried all the user-provided hints and tips on the PHP website.

Eventually, using the "-f" flag in the headers, I was able to have rejected mail routed to my own email account. That’s when I noticed something weird: all the password reminder emails were being flagged as containing a virus. Most odd.

Then it dawned on me: it was the subject line. By simply recognising the words "your details", some server-side spam filter was flagging all the emails as potential carriers of the MyDoom virus.

(This MyDoom virus must be making life really difficult for any system admins who might need to mail out server reports - they’ll need to start getting creative with their subject lines.)

After hours and hours spent hacking and coding, it turned out that the problem was ridiculously easy to fix. All I had to do was change the subject line to something more innocuous like "A reminder from The Session".

On an unrelated but equally geeky note, I have loosed a Lazy Web type meme into the wild in this discussion:

"Maybe somebody could mix iPhoto, Applescript and the image swapping script from this article to come up with a ‘contact sheet’ style export script?"

Monday, February 9th, 2004

Bluetooth on the brain

Best. Haircut. Ever.

It’s almost as cool as my dongle-cosy.

RSS feeds for The Session

If, like me, you’re both a geek and a lover of Irish traditional music, you might be interested in hearing that there are now RSS feeds available from The Session.

There are four different feeds available. You can drag any of these links to your newsreader, sit back and wait for the updates:

Tunes, Recordings, Sessions and Links.

Friday, February 6th, 2004

Apart at last

In this week’s A List Apart: JavaScript Image Gallery by yours truly.

If you have any thoughts, ideas or feedback on the article, feel free to discuss them here. I’ll endeavour to respond in a timely fashion.

They're my friends

You know how they sometimes do parody ads on South Park or Ren and Stimpy?

Well, as regular viewers of British commercial television will tell you, this is for real:

I love horses best of all the animals.

Thursday, February 5th, 2004

Captain Safari

As users of Apple’s web browser will be aware, Safari offers the option to display a bug reporting icon in its browser chrome. I’ve used this feature a few times and, based on the modifications in the subsequent version of Safari, here’s what I think happens when a bug report gets sent:

A siren sitting atop Dave Hyatt’s monitor begins to strobe and a klaxon begins to blare. If it’s outside office hours, Dave’s pager immediately goes off (unless he’s in his car, in which case a detailed "Incoming Browser Bug" schematic appears on his custom built Heads Up Display). One way or another, the man is alerted to the problem. He then abstains from sleep, food or any other temptations of the body until the bug is squashed and the fix is safely tucked into the next release of the browser. Only then does he allow himself a brief respite (perhaps just time enough to update his blog)… until the next bug report arrives.

Some examples:

On the first page of my CSS Based Design article, I use an animated .gif as a background image. Now, I don’t know whether it’s technically a bug that the .gif doesn’t animate when used in this way (considering the potential for abuse, perhaps it’s better if it doesn’t), but I submitted a bug report anyway.

On the Salter Cane website I make use of "small-caps" in the CSS "font-variant" declaration. It degrades gracefully for browsers that don’t understand it but it sure is a nice touch for those that do. Safari wasn’t supporting the declaration so I sent off a bug report.

In the stylesheet for the default theme here at Adactio (and most of the other themes too), I reference a couple of different potential background images for the "eycandy" <div> on every page. Only one background image will ever be needed by any one page but Safari was loading each image as soon as it read the stylesheet. While that was handy for caching images for subsequent pages, it meant that the initial page load time was just a bit too long. Time for a bug report.

The new version of Safari fixes every one of these issues.

Dave Hyatt; caped crusader of web browser development, tireless defender of web standards and eternally vigilant enemy of browser bugs.

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004

As the web turns

I’m back from Ireland where I had an enjoyable, if somewhat rushed, weekend of seafood, stout and song.

I returned to find over 1,000 emails waiting to be downloaded, the majority of them being spewed out by computers infected with the MyDoom virus. Windows users, for the love of God, start using some secure mail clients.

In my absence, the internet has, it seems, just carried on without me.

There’s a new version of Safari out (and very spiffy it is too), a new issue of A List Apart and two new big CSS makovers: AOL and Sprint. The Sprint redesign comes courtesy of France Rupert who’s continuing to fly the standards flag over there.

Apparently something interesting happened at the superbowl too, but I haven’t managed to figure out what yet.

It’s information overload. If I had stayed away any longer I would have run the risk of missing the funniest thing I’ve read in ages: what do real kids think of classic guitar anthems?