Friday, December 21, 2007

Been busy lately

.. and not much time to blog

Although, there are many many things to blog about I do not have the time to do just that. It's been a very busy time. So here is a very quick and short update.

So what happened?
  • Had a very interesting time at Vicrea doing a conformity test for the Dutch ministry of Housing (VROM) and they, we, I passed! Three cheers for them, us, me!
  • Also while being outsourced there I made the functional design that they are now building without me. Every now and then I sense the grunts coming from that building. Sorry, it wasn't me who designed the interface of the VROM side of things. I bare with you, all the way to the McDonald's.
  • In between all this there is much time being spent on the wonderful Girls A-team of the hockeyclub MHC Steenwijk. We aimed for the highest leaugue and reached that and we even were in the top spot for a couple of weeks and presently we are in the second spot and we have plans not to go any lower than that. And that is an understatement!
  • Then there is a great project going on at my present employer. We are preparing an online service, SaaS, and plan to go live in the next couple of months. there is still a lot of stuff that needs to be done in the project, but it is absolutely exciting. I will remain hush hush for a while, but I will let you know on this blog when things become closer to the launch!
  • After my time at Vicrea I now have moved onwards to yet another insurance company, Achmea to lend a hand in some projects. An interesting environment I should say.
  • Also some websites are in the progress of being built, so that takes some more time away from me.
  • I know that I am forgetting stuff here ..
  • And finally, my family and me are about to embark on Our Big Trip to visit my brother and sister in law in Bloomington, Indiana. That will keep us away for some three weeks and hopefully I will find time to update either this blog or my Dutch Hyves pages. The latter is probably not visible to everyone and it is in Dutch.
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So, thats the update for now.

Rests me nothing more than to wish everyone a good and healthyy holiday season!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Activation required

.. or who wants to live forever?

Yes, I have a laptop and yes it has Windows Vista on it. Yes, slowly and surely I begin to learn to live with its quirks and annoyances. I begin to find the little knobs you need to find to turn off those nasty warning screens. I mean, three dialogs warning me when I drag and drop some files to my C: drive? Honestly!

And then the confusing options when I want to go home. Should I:

  1. let the laptop Shut Down?
  2. put it to Sleep?
  3. let it Hibernate?
  4. or just close it down and see for it self what it does?

This is not a quiz with prizes but all answers are welcome in the comments.

Anyhow

Last night I put my laptop into Hibernate and this morning I woke it up again and Norton Internet Security welcomed me with this screen.

The message box in Dutch
You have decided to skip activation. This proces takes less than a minute. You have to activate your product within 4325464 days. Otherwise it will no longer work.
Do you want to activate now?

Now, I must remember to activate it in about 118 and a half century. Now, I just hope my laptop still is around by then. I will have to pass this on to my offspring. Because I don't think I will be around to remember.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

On being treated like a pirate

... Hasta la Vista baby!

In a shocking article "WARNING: device driver updates causing Vista to deactivate" James Bannan from the Australian APC Magazine reports on his completely legal copy of Windows Vista almost closing down on him after having replaced his video card and updating some device drivers. Apparently, the anti-piracy miracles inside Vista decided that there was enough evidence of a major hardware change that it concluded that it had been copied to a completely new system!

Exchanging the video card or updating the driver for his hard drive by themselves was not enough to start the deactivation, but combined it was just enough. In the comments to said article there are reports taht even things like a number of creating encrypted volumes can trigger this unwanted behaviour.

Long live the pirates!

Also in the article it is made clear that the pirated version you can grab of Torrent sites completely ignores this Activation check. So the group those lovely people over at Microsoft want to tackle just continue without a glitch and the Joe Average who updates his device drivers directly from the hardware manufacturer and maybe exchange a piece of hardware is in danger of getting stuck with a helpless copy of Vista ...

It seems like the world has turned upside down.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

iPhone, youPhone, wePhone

.. or noPhone?

Eventhough not too many people read this blog, not like thousands a day, I do get one or two odd visitors every now and then. I have seen people with huge monitors like 6000 pixels wide, which are in fact quadruple monitors (ow, how I envy just the deskspace for that setup!). But now apparently an iPhone has made to this site.

Weird!

But interesting!

Good Cheap and Fast Service

.. sounds too perfect to be true

In fact it is too good to be true.

Anyway, two out of three aint bad.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

You need a split brain

.. to split the atom

Molly E. Holzschlag has a very interesting post on the split brain you need as a web developer / designer.

You need to know a lot of technical stuff AND you need to be creative. You need to make something visually appealing AND make it work. Not an easy assignment.

For me, the split between trying to stay up to date with everything web related and making this appealing and getting the work done, is what makes the entire constellation go round and round. It's fun to learn and re-solve the puzzle with new tools in new ways.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six years ago today

.. I knew I was so naive

10 September 2001: I was under the impression that things were getting better in the World. That we were indeed slowly, ever so slowly, making this World a bit better.

11 September 2001: I was shocked and my positive feeling about the future was shattered. I felt like being back in the darkest days of Cold War, when we were threatened by the Soviets.

11 September 2007: I can still not believe that the World has not fully recovered. That there is still stupid violence going on in Afghanistan, Iraq and basically all around the globe. That still innocent people are hurt most by the stupid violence. I am no longer naive and I am beginning to lose my optimism and fearing that this World will never get any better, because the People on it have not enough respect for each other and too much fear of others, other religions, other skin color, other habits.

Please, please, People of the World, prove me wrong!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Terrorism: an excuse not to think

FUD, FUD, FUD

I saw this pop up on Digg and just glanced at it and my hair started to stand up straight.

"Mexican Trucks Begin Crossing Border Saturday"

Me being a European I just wonder if this is the first time Mexican trucks will the border. Probably not.

Digg user logicize
Making it even easier for the terrorists. Prelude to the North American Union. The Teamsters Union said it has been told by officials in the Transportation Department's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that the first Mexican trucks will be coming across the border on Saturday.

What? Terrorists? Did the Mexicans fly in to the Towers on 9/11? Must have missed that.

When you then start to read the numerous completely fear infested comments I begin to wonder why I am not afraid. IN the European Union we have open borders for years all ready. No gates to stop terrorists from Belgium, Denmark or, worse, Liechtenstein, a deeply fundamentalist philatelist country.

It's all about FUD

It sounds like too much FUD. Keep pumping fear and uncertainty into people and in the end they will believe anything. They will keep guns in their homes and believe that it keeps their children safe, until they find the gun and start playing with it.

It cannot be this bad

I thought the United States was about freedom and free trade and equal opportunities for everyone. Apparently only when you are a US citizen. Share more of your wealth and less of your polution.

Luckily, there are comments in there that show there are still people who use their brain. That gives me another glimpse of hope.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wanna know how Gmail works?

.. different from what you expected!

On the official Gmail blog they announced a challenge for people around the globe: to show how Gmail works in an funny video.

The official Gmail blog
A few of us on the Gmail team came up with an idea to stitch together a bunch of video clips that all share one element: someone hands the Gmail M-velope in from the left of the screen, and hands it off to the right. Put them all together, and they form one long chain of hand-offs

This what came out of that idea.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Consultants

.. bit of self reflection

In the past I always have been looking at consultants as people from a different planet. There was a time that I really believed that they actually know everything. Now I know it's just one big secret society with silent rules about what to do and say and when, how and where to say that. I know, because I am one of them now.

Sorry.

Some definitions and observations

The following definitions and observations concerning consultants are true.

  • A consultant is someone whom a manager gives a number and then takes that number goes away for some time and then hands that number back to the manager with an accompanying invoice. Somehow that is satisfying to the manager, as long as the number doesn't change.
  • When you ask a consultant what time it is, he will give you instructions on how to build your own clock.
  • There are three kinds of consultants: those that can count and those that can't.
  • When you ask a kid or any sane person how much one and one add up to they wil answer two. Which I still hold to be correct. A consultant will ask: "well, how much would you like it to be?"

And slowly and surely I begin to understand this.

And slowly and surely I begin to lose my senses.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Web Standards and growing pains

.. or is there no growth?

Molly Holzschlag has done it and again and yet again. She has raised a concern that has been brought up by others: "WTF are W3C and WHAT WG and HTML 5 WG up to? Are they completely from another planet? Are they disconnected from the real world end users and developers?"

Molly Holzschlag
Are you all just dumbed down by the fact you’ve got a job or what? Tell me. Let’s fix it. W3C, WaSP, whatever. We have problems.

Are there problems in this arena? Is it a bit of piled up frustration that has exploded? Or what?

Anyhow, the post triggered an enormous amount of comments and discussion (or at least poking at each other). Hence, follow up posts from Molly.

Plenty of storm

Reading most of the comments it mighht appear that there could be huge issues out there and that the world wide web is going to fall apart.

That sounds really, really awful.

In comes the King!

But then Jeffrey Zeldman puts me and hopefully all of us with our feet back on the ground with his post.

His point is that it is really easy to say that there is so much wrong with all the upcoming specs being compiled and coming out. But screaming murder without pointing out what exactly is wrong does nothing to help resolve the case.

That it takes long to compile specifications and have these in definitive state is something that makes sense. It's not making the menu for a Christmas dinner party with you and your parents. It's more like making a menu for a Christmas dinner for all your relatives. Each with their own diets and things they do not like to eat. And then also invite those Jewish people from across the street. And your Muslim colleague. And make sure everyone gets the right food prepared the right way and the right portion. Don't serve the Muslim wine, the Jew no ham, the vegetarian no meat at all. That is something like putting together a specification for HTML 5 is like, I guess.

Yes, it takes long to compile such a menu and I understand that the guests are getting hungry, but when it is finished each will have a great time and will experience a wonderful dinner and have their bellies filled with satisfaction.

It's not as bad as it seems

Molly in her third posts concludes in a way that's typical to her.

Molly Holzschlag
Is my approach passionate? You bet, and if you know me, it’s clear that the day that passion goes away I know I will have ceased to be effective in any way in this industry and I will leave it. But that day isn’t today. It’s a warm summer evening in Redmond, Washington, and I’m going to take some fresh lemons and make lemonade.
Anybody want a glass?
Roho
Well, it's clouded here so I will stick with a cup of cappucino.

Cheers, Molly!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Long live the King of Web Standards!

.. I bow to thee

It seems like so long ago already when I started to get into building web sites. Being the perfectionist that I am I wanted to do things right from the start. It was just a handful years ago that I really started building web sites. Although ky very first atempts must date back to 1995 or there abouts. I remember being proud of it and giving a colleague the url and him asking where the images were. Looking at the html I soon discovered they were still linking to my C-drive!

Well, years passed and I wasn't really active on the Net, other than trying to find stuff through AltaVista. Than five or six years ago I became more interested in web design and development again.

Being ambitious and working at Nike at that time "I wanted to do the right thing": and decided to just do it. I looked around for information and struck on sites like A List Apart and great inspring people like Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman. Through them and many other web standard evangelistas and web sites I learned the difficult trade of developing web standard compliant web sites.

And I am still learning today.

And I will still be learning tomorrow.

And I will probably still be learning for the rest of my life.

And I just love that

Back to the King

But do not stray too far from the path. Business Week has come up with a great article about Jeffrey Zeldman proclaiming him the King of Web Standards and rightfully so.

This is a must read and bookmark it and use it in the struggle to convince people of the need for web standards and the use of these.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Is there business life in Second Life?

.. or are companies just wasting money?

Is Second Life just one of those hypes that suddenly attract business attention? With the enormous amount of users or players Second Life seems like another interesting platform for marketing people. When there are people around put up some form of advertising and you can get rich. Even when the people are only virtual. You can get virtually rich, maybe.

Is it just a hype?

I just wonder if all the money put into it by governments, banks, insurance companies and what not will ever pay off. Clever companies are offering to create a presence for your company. They might be the only one benefitting from the entire hype. Good for them.

Recent reports have made it very clear that although there are many members of Second Life but only a small portion of them are regularly active. And only a portion of them is very active.

For example, recently the city of Amsterdam was for sale on Second Life. Well, at least a very nice representation of the city. But no buyers were found.

A virtual bubble

To me it's another version of an Internet Bubble. Companies and even local governments are running away with it. Investing lots of money into it and calculating huge benefits. When apporached with some doubt, they repost with the unmeasurable value of showing how much they are front runners. To me they show how gullible they are in an unmeasurable way.

Is it me?

Then again, it could be me, who's teh problem. I might be getting old and not seeing oppurtunities when they hit me in the face.

But still, I think Second Life can be fun for the players (it is a game in my perception). I am not buying virtual drinks in a virtual bar to virtually try and pick a virtually huge breasteed blonde (who probably is a pathethic middle aged unmarried unshaven bolding male from Wessex) for some virtual fooling around. Nor would I get virtual insurance for any virtual damage that might give me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Almost vacation

.. but I'll give you this

This might not be completely original and very new, but I just discovered it and thoughht I would share it with you, dear reader.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I love bananas!

.. honestly I do

where's the title now?But I am not too fond of banana republics. Usually dictatorships and people with a very narrow vision.

But bananas: they have great taste and good nutritional value.

Who could live without the occasional banana?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hood to Coast

.. seems like ages ago

Well, it's about four years ago now. I suddenly was promoted from one of the reserves to runner number two of the Lowland Express and we finished 936, offically.

And I found myself runnning leg 2 and leg 14 in the dark and finally leg 26.

Thanks to the wonders of mashup and Web 2.0 I can now relive part of that experience on a Google Map.

Well, fellow runners of 2003 thanks again for a wonderful experience!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fully certified!

.. and now the season finally ends

As I mentioned earlier I passed the exams for Youth Hockey Trainer and yesterday I received the accompanying certificate for the coaching part. This makes me a complete Trainer and Coach! And yes, I am very very proud of doing all this amidst all the struggles at my previous job and the fresh start I am still in.

Now, finally, the season ends. It's been a weird season.

Just a quick look back

Just two years ago I moved back to the town my wife and me grew up: Steenwijk. We left behind the town of Hoevelaken and the hockey club where we've both been rather active. I pulled a line for myself and I said that I would not be active in hockey for at least a year. Well, that's exactly how long it lasted.

I was asked during that year to train the Ladies team the next season. And then it was silent for some time. And then on a Wednesday evening I was asked again if I could train the Ladies team starting that coming Friday. I said yes.

On Friday some players of the team decided to call it quits and the team fell apart and my career was over before it started.

Then I was added to the staff of the Girls A team. They became champion at the end of this season. A great achievement.

Sometime during fall I was asked if I would be interested in a course for Youth Hockey Trainer. I thought the question was about trying to find out if there would be enough people interested in doing it. I didn't know if I would be able to find the time to do it, but yes I am always interested in learning new skills for things that I love to do.

Then I got an email that the course would start coming Saturday and that they would come and pick me up. Right, fine, so the decision was made for me.

When the Coach course popped up later, to be held at our own club, I decided to go along with that one as well. It would mean that I would round off the entire course in the same year. And have it over with.

I had some great teachers: Paul Hamers and Monique Beyer. Their enthusiasm, humor and teaching skills made it all very endurable.

And now it is over. Usually the hockey seasons ends in May with some great tournaments early June. But now it dragged on a bit into July.

Now onto a well deserved couple of weeks until the next season starts in August.

This a bit blurry shot of the great closing evening of the coaching part with Monique in the back in the middle. Thanks again Monique and Paul!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Putting pictures on a map

.. and see where you have been

And Google is making more things possible again by combining the forces of two applications. It is now possible in Picasa Web Albums to exactly pinpoint where you have taken your pictures.

You can also create a kml file that allows you to show the pictures in Google Earth. This makes Picasa Web Albums come close to Panoramio. Only difference is that anyone can now easily see the pictures uploaded to Panoramio by any user. I expect that the public photos on Picasa Web will be visible in a layer in Google Earth pretty soon.

Google did buy Panoramio recently and they have a very thorough history of integrating applications.

It will make looking around in Google Earth even more fun. Seeing pictures taken by neighbours of your own neighboorhood. Better than looking for a cat in Street View!

Update

Google Maps now already shows the Panoramio pictures in the My Maps context. So things are rolling. The game's afoot!

Now here's a fine example of a Panoramio picture on Google Maps. Be sure to go to the My Maps tab and select the Panoramio layer. There is panoramic view uploaded by me.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Well, yes I'm proud of this

.. so here I am bragging a little

Maybe just for the Dutch readers amongst my visitors I did an exam last week and passed!

I now am a certified Youth Hockey Trainer!

Yes!

Even more ego boosting

While doing a bit of an ego search on Google I discovered that this little blog post was already in the serach results. Incredible. Scrolling a bit down I found this item and when I followed through I felt my heart from joy.

The names of the great Eric Meyer and me in one newsletter! Wow!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mashing up is easy

.. with Google Mashup Editor

Yep, it tickled my imagination and so I tried it out: Google Mashup Editor

So, here it is:

I know, it's not much, but it was half an hour fiddling about. Fun!

Keeping in touch

.. is getting easier and easier

Nowadays, the world is village. Sydney is just round the corner of New York and Moscow and across the street from Baghdad and Brussels. People you have once met are always very nearby. E-mail and IM and all sorts of social sites make it easy to find about every person with some Internet past.

Lately, I have been putting some spare time in collecting connections on LinkedIn and see my network growing every week. I have reconnected to people I hadn't spoken with for years. It's fun.

Well, here's my public profile at LinkedIn.

You never know if YOU might want to get back in touch with me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Other disclaimers

.. can be fun as well

Some time ago I published the disclaimer for this blog, well because some people needed to be aware that no sheep were hurt. No dogs either.

Now there are more of these disclaimer around and I stumbled into this one today.

I thought it was funny although sheep were hurt in the making of th book ;-)

Taking a Safari

.. without going to Africa

For some years now I am devoted user of the Firefox browser. I just love the myriad of extensions as a user and the web standard implementation as a developer. I just can not live without the DOM Inspector or Firebug.

But ..

But I always knew that there was supposedly a better browser out there that was even better at rendering according to the standards: Safari. It tickled me and made me aware that in that area Firefox was just not the best browser. Close maybe, but not the best. And aaaaargh Safari was only available on Apple. Eventhough Apple computers have been very tempting and I have seriously thought about getting myself a Mini, I never really got round it.

Now things have changed a bit: you can now download a beta version of Safari 3 that you can install on OS X or on Windows XP or Vista.

I'll take a look at my blog and see how it looks in Safari! [singing]It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining I feel good, nothing 's gonna stop me now[sorry].

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Time too waste?

.. easy!

Well I thought Flickrvison was a nice way to stare at a computer screen for hours and do nothing.

But now Google has come up with another great way of spending valuable work hours.

I wonder what comes up next.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ooh I'm just a busy bee

still alive in my hive

Yep, it's been sort of quiet lately on this blog. But I have been doing various unrelated things. That has kept me quite busy. Busy enough to not to blog. So, here's a short update on my recent activities.

  • Left my job at the insurance company, this post describes part of the reason. Rather one of the many reasons.
  • Had a week of complete rest. The best vacation is taken with the left over days off at the end of your contract when you float happily in the vacuum between two jobs.
  • Then I started my new job as a consultant. A fairly new company, not too big. Started on the bench first.
  • Sitting on the bench started to work on certification. Somehow never really got to that. My employers never demanded it or supported it or payed for it. And I never wanted to pay for it. Reading books and learning code that you may never use in real life. That is hard.
  • Built a little web site. When it's gone live I will provide a link.
  • Had a look at Visual Studio 2005 Team System: Team Foundation Server. I must say that I am quite impressed. It holds many promises.
  • Going through various sources on Team Foundation Server. Finding useful info and locating opportunities for our consultancy firm. Things we can add, tweak and customize on TFS to make it a product / service that we can deliver to customers. Lots and lots of potential there.
  • Driving a lease car for the first time of my life.
  • Driving the second lease car, as the first one was apparently "too old".
  • Thinking about which lease car I should get as these first two were only temporarily mine.
  • Getting to grips with Windows Vista on my very wide screen laptop. It looks nice, but why?
  • Getting to grips with Office 2007.
  • Bought myself a new PDA. The old one a very robust HP Jornada 420 was getting "too old" and would never sync with Windows Vista.
  • Discovering that my new PDA, an HP Travel Companion Rx5720 with TomTom 6.1 will simply not sync with my Vista / Outlook 2007 machine. Aaaargh! Well, at least I can have John Cleese give me directions. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or Darth Vader. Or in Catalunian.
  • In my sparse spare time I am busy getting some other certification as a Youth Hockey Trainer. And for all you US citizens; I am talking about the real hockey, not the artificial stuff on ice with a flattened ball. Within a couple of weeks the examinations will start.
  • Mahimba.com is coming to live, ever so slowly
  • Also the hockey has continued to take up more and more of my time lately as I am doing my home work analyzing games and the season is drawing to a climax with a possible championship (it's now official: the girls are champion!) and the ever excellent Knollenkamp tournament.

So, there you are. Quite a list.

And should I mention that I also try to finalize my website utilizing my Clean Semantics approach? Yes, I think I should

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ambition

.. can bite you both ways

When you have ambition, even in the smallest amounts, it means you want to achieve something. You want to reach a goal. Sometimes the goal can be vague like doing something good or make the world a better place. Or a goal can be to win a gold medal at the next Olympics. Easily measured, but difficult to achieve.

Ambitions make the world go round

If nobody had any ambition than absolutely nothing would be achieved. Having ambitions is vital to progress and, I claim, having ambition is vital to having fun. The feeling of achievement when you get closer to your goal is essential to your joy in life.

But ..

When your ambitions do not line up with the ambition of the organization you work, well, Houston, you have a problem.

There two situations. Your ambitions are lower. You may be in something like survival mode or the organization has the ambition set for world domination by the next quarter. Or something more subtle. This difference means you have to do more than you aspire. This means running faster than you want and maybe can. You will draw the short straw sometime soon. You are likely to work under a load of stress trying to liveup to the ambitions of over eager boss. Best thing to do is, tell the boss. If he/she does not listen, then find another job.

Or ..

The other situation is equally bad if not worse. When your ambition is bigger than the ambition of the organization. You make plan after plan, you give carefully prepared presentations. You do a lot of research and even start lobbying for support on any level. To no avail.

Extra painful: they fully agree with you. Your plans make sense. It is the right thing to do. Even the right way to do it. But they agree only in word not in action. Not on paper or in email. So, there is no real support: you are on your own.

You are likely to become completely disappointed by all management. Especially, when profitwise the organization is doing very well. But oh, you know, it could have been doing so much better!

So, again after fighting all the windmills, there is only one thing to do: find another job.

And better believe me: been there, done that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Web Design Survey 2007

I took it

Really!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Clean Semantics: the three column attempt

.. when things get ugly?

In my previous posts about Clean Semantics I have explained a bit about my philosophy of Clean Semantics. Trying to get rid of the div tag soup and only use the real semantic markup. Driving it to the extreme (I know) and literally avoiding any tag that has no direct semantic value. Call me a Semantic Fundamentalist.

I have shown markup for a simple layout with a header, a menu and a content area. But I left with a cliff hanger regarding a three column layout.

Three columns: first attempt

My first attempt was using some form of positioning to place the columns left and right. Positioning the top element of both the left and right column was easy: place them just below the header and to the left or right. But I could not really find a way then place the next elements below these first. There is no way of knowing the height of the elements. So I sighed and came up with the old fashioned way: wrap the columns in a <div>. Sigh! Here's the example of a three column design using only two <div>'s.

As you can see it works. I have placed some different types of elements in there and it behaves all in all like expected. And only two <div>'s! And the content is a nice order. The columns follow after the main content, which is good practice for search engines. But the order can be swapped about, layout stays the same.

But those two <div>'s in there are not semantic. So for a Semantic Fundamentalist, like me, they are two too many. It did not give me the feeling of having achieved anything.

Three columns: second attempt

So I decided that positioning was not the right solution path for the problem and I returned to good old floating.

I mentioned that it would be relatively easy to combine my first example with the menu on the left with my third example with a horizontal menu. Then if I just add some right floated content I would be well on the way.

The sub menu has the same styling as the menu in the first example. The content on the right is just floated to the right and with clear to the right to move the item below the previous one.

float:right;clear:right;

This was indeed not too difficult, see the example.

I may have lost the source order independence, but still I can live with that. I also have a feeling that this could be the right approach.

Three columns: third attempt

In the previous example I have take a small step with floating and clearing to the right. So let's do the to the left as well.

float:left;clear:left;

Sounds just so simple. Why I ever considered positioning I don't know. My first angle of attack is usually floating things into place.

So, the simple floating and clearing left and right could do the trick. Here is what I made of that: three column layout with no <div>'s. Do me a favour and view it using Internet Explorer 6. Yes, you read that correctly. In Internet Explorer 6 this markup and styling works. In Firefox things go a bit awry. To me it seems the floating and clearing rules are interpreted differently. And IE7 does the same thing as Firefox, so maybe the bus is in IE6? Hmmm, too bad.

I have only tested the layout in Firefox and IE6 and IE7 so far, so using a different browser will probably show even more possible outcomes.

But which is right? IE6 or Firefox & IE7?

Remains the question: which browser does it wrong? Or more simple what do the rules state as correct floating behavior?

Let's look up the W3C rules in CSS 2.1.

The W3C's CSS 2.1 definition of float
A float is a box that is shifted to the left or right on the current line. The most interesting characteristic of a float (or "floated" or "floating" box) is that content may flow along its side (or be prohibited from doing so by the 'clear' property).

In the image this rules is visualized. When floating to the right, the elements go all the way to right until they can not move any further, because they reach the right edge of the containing element or they are stopped by another right floated element. When the element is cleared to the right it does not allow for any elements to be on the right, it clears those away or rather takes the easy way out and moves down a bit so that it can snuggle up against the right edge of the containing element.

When I then combine the right float and cleared elements with left float and cleared elements I expect something like the picture below. A neatly stack of elements on the left and right side of my containing element. Just like IE6 shows it. So, in my interpretation Firefox and IE7 have a bug rendering the markup and styling. It is a hard conclusion to draw here, but I think it is true. Looking at how the markup is rendered in Firefox and IE7 I have the feeling that somehow elements that are cleared on the right are also cleared on the left, but not all. The last floated element to the right has no influence on the vertical position on the first left floated element. Multiple floated and cleared elements to one side apparently make Firefox and IE7 only remember the vertical position of the last element. Anyway, this approach is not rendered consistently enough across different browsers to use it. Let's forget it.

What to do?

What can I do now? It seemed to be going so well. Can I still find a workaround for this problem or should I just let it be and stick with using two <div>'s?

I'm not giving up yet. I will give it another try. Meanwhile, if anyone with another browser can tell me if that browsers shows my three column layout with no <div>'s correctly or not, please do. The comments are open.

Update

Now that I have Safari 3 beta for Windows on my machine I see exactly the same appearance as in Firefox. So, taking into account the execllent performance of Safari in the area of standards compliance rendering I think I must take back my conclusion to the bug in Firefox.

The correct rendering of Internet Explorer is just a lucky bug.

This article is part of a series of four

  1. First steps towards Clean Semantics
  2. The shape of Clean Semantics
  3. Clean Semantics: the three column attempt
  4. Clean Semantics in practice (Will follow shortly).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Standard Screen Resolution

.. is it me or is the world getting bigger?

This is an update to an older post of me: A new Standard in screen resolution?. In which I state that you should design your pages for different media (by serving the correct stylesheet using the media attribute) and that you could also serve different stylesheets by detecting through JavaScript the user agents viewport size (in normal language: the height and width of the browser window).

That's all very clear. I think.

But ..

Yes, there is always a but. You have to be unobtrusive with JavaScript as we all know.

If JavaScript is turned off we still need serve a reasonable styling. (If CSS is turned off as well we better have design a semantic page!) So, the best approach imho is to design for a screen resolution that will suit the most users.

That means you need to find the size that will fit most visitors. Through some web statistics this can be achieved quite easily.

Give me the data, Data

I have checked the statistics of a Dutch insurance company for this year (2007 until 20th April) and that means a total of 846,278 visitors with a shocking number of 436 different screen sizes!

When put these in a bubble graph width screen width and height as axes we see the following picture. For the sake of argument we'll forget about handhelds for now.

What we see is that the biggest slice of visitors have 1024x768 screen, 56% of them. So that seems like reasonable standard screen size. But there is still that blob of 800x600 screen users. So what happens if use the 1024x768 size as a basis. We'll make it a bit narrower to cater for the browser chrome. We'll use a screen width of 960px.

If we use this number we'll miss out about 6.5% of our visitors. Well, not exactly miss them. These users will most likely see a horizontal scroll bar. Some people say that's not done, but it still is the approach we took at the insurance company. Our design is such that we have a sidebar on the right and the main content on the left. This main part is less than 800px wide so we decided that even though the visitors with narrow screens would still see the most important bit of the page. The sidebar is extra, optional content.

Originally we had designed the site for 800px wide which would potentially be too wide for 0.09% of the visitors. These would mainly be handheld visitors. They would get a different stylesheet anyhow.

So, what's the conclusion?

I would say that it makes perfectly sense to design for a screen width of 1024px. Only a small portion of the visitors will suffer from that. But the other way around if you design for an 800px width you will serve the vast majority of your audience a lot of wasted screen real estate.

On top of that if you would implement the JavaScript screen size detection as referred to in my previous post of the 6.5% with a small screen would only suffer if they have JavaScript turned off. My numbers for that are that only about 5% have that turned off. So most likely less than 1% will suffer from your decision to use the width of 1024px as a design parameter.

Final note

Maybe one day we will all have these huge screens like two visitors that we had: 5120x2048! I would sure like one or is it a stack of 10 monitors?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The shape of Clean Semantics

.. going minimalist

As I have written before I wanted to try t get rid of all these extra tags, get rid of the div soup. I set out on a journey not knowing if I would ever reach the destination or where that destination would be.

Zen's something you can reach through either green tea or black coffee. Cappuccino works fine as well.

Fill your cup and come and join me on my journey to Zen. Let's take the yellow brick XHTML 1.0 Strict road.

The examples I have created have been tested in Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 6.x.

First challenge: keeping it simple

It's time to start virtually breathing again. A centered, fixed width design with a header, the menu on the left side and a one column content area We start off with this very simple layout. A centered, fixed width design with a header, the menu on the left side and a one column content area. We'll add a footer later.

Taking little steps

First of all we need a centered layout on a different background color. To achieve this we need two elements: one for the background and within that one we need another one for centering the rest of the stuff that goes inside.

Traditionally we would grab a wrapper <div> and put a width and the centering

margin:0 auto;
styling on it.

But let's quit with traditions and forget the wrapper <div>. Let's think again. We need two elements and we also know the styling. Think again. Every web page you look at always has two elements at least. What about the good old <html> and the equally important <body>. Just use these two elements. Give the body a fixed width and center it within the body.

Can you get any more semantic? The <body> node holds the body of the web (<html>) page. That's what I call Semantic with a capital S.

Now ease along to the next step

Let's have look at the header. The best tag for that is no doubt the <h1>. No discussion. For fun we throw in a logo image. Simply contain that within the <h1>.

Now for styling. Give the h1 sufficient height, well more than the font-size. Make the line-height the same and make sure the margin at the top is zero. Float the logo to the left and add some padding around it so it fills the height and has some room so the text of the h1 stands nicely on its own.

h1{height:120px;line-height:120px;margin-top:0;}
img#logo{float:left;padding:10px 12px 13px 90px;}

Well, that finishes the header.

The next step is a bit more tricky

So far so good. So far everything is fully semantic. Now we get to the trickier bit. The menu on the left. Semantically we do not have a <menu> tag in XHTML 1.0 Strict. However, luckily it's completely normal to use an unordered list (<ul>) for an unordered list of links as a menu. Semantically close enough to still say that's pretty clean.

Using one often used method let's turn that into a vertical menu adn float it to the left.

Final step is coming

Leaves us with the content. For that I use sub headers (<h2>) and paragraphs (<p>). Again, a big semantic cheer from the crowd.

Simply put a left margin on both the elements to have enough room for the menu and add a bit of padding on the right to make it look good.

h2, p {margin-left:180px;padding-right:35px;}
h2 {padding-top:0;}
That was that!

And there we are. We have arrived at our first destination. A very clean and lean piece of xhtml and css. No extra fluff. No soup served. Neither div soup, nor table soup.

Have a look at the result.

Variety killed the cat

Now, just have a look at some variations:

Interesting exercise, so far

All right, this is indeed all clean semantics. But is it of any real use? This layout is very minimalist by itself. Can it be expanded to real life situations? How far can we push the envelop

Can we for instance create something like this blog layout? A header, a sidebar on the left and one on the right?

With some little imagination we could add another (sub) menu on the left side styled like the menu in my first example. But how about the right sidebar?

Cliff 's still hanging

Again you must virtually hold your breath. I have made some progress in that area. I have come close, but I have it only rendering the way I want it in just one browser. The other one does unexpected things. It's not the one you would expect.

I will have to go through the W3C specs to find out which browser is rendering correctly.

Until then, have a good semantical time!

This article is part of a series of four

  1. First steps towards Clean Semantics
  2. The shape of Clean Semantics
  3. Clean Semantics: the three column attempt
  4. Clean Semantics in practice (Will follow shortly).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Firefox usage grows slowly

.. but steadily

As the French research Xiti shows in its recent report Firefox usage is steadily progressing in Europe.

Looking the average of Europe we see a steady climb from 19.4 % to 24.1% over the last year. Adding an almost 5% share! Impressive to say the least. The share has been growing more than 24% in a years time. Wow!

These are still very good numbers! I would have thought that growth would maybe slowdown, but no. It is still going steady.

Worldwide we see that Australia has the biggest Firefox share, 24.8%. North America is a bit behind on 15.1%. But looking at the numbers for the Netherlands they are still ahead of our 13.3%. That number has dropped 0.7% since last November. Weird.

It only goes to show that there are lies, big lies and statistics.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

First steps towards Clean Semantics

.. just a few careful ones

Some of you may have read my post on finding Zen in the Garden or the prequel to that one stating less is more. These posts may have tickled your brain and may have made you wanting to know more. Then again you may have not.

"Front-End Architect"

Some time ago I have read an article on the 72 dpi In the Shade site. The article was fun to read as it provided 10 CSS tips from a Professional Front-End Architect. A job title that I hadn't encountered before. The writer had originally used the job title "Professional CSS Architect". A title that strikes me as even more odd. I am considering using one of these titles in the future. Once I can give some meaning to them, that is.

Anyhow, that was not the point of me referring to the article. Nor the tips and the hilarious long list pointing the author to mistakes he makes himself despite his well intended tips. It's fun to read and a good laugh, do take the time. But I get away from the subject.

The thing that triggered me in the article was the point about keeping containers to a minimum. While looking at some of the code I made for the website recently I once again was shivering with some of the markup I produced. Wrapping stuff inside empty and un-classed div elements! Huwuwrruurrg! Just too horrible for words.

It's a disease

Even though admittedly I was handed the first rough version of the markup and probably was a bit too shy to really rip it apart or even better, just throw it away and start from scratch, I am the one responsible for the markup. At least for a few more days.

I got a spot of the disease that many "Front-End Developers" suffer from in the beginning of their career: div-itis. Just throw in another wrapping <div> to move elements into place. Yes, I am guilty. I may have never served table-soup, but div-soup was on the menu.

But I must also say that while progressing with the markup to cover more and more of page templates I made it leaner and leaner. Nowadays I think long on which element is the best for the job and try to use just that single element and only put a wrapping <div> unless I cannot think of a way to style without it.

Yes, I have bettered my life and will continue to do so.

Roho
Yes, I am guilty. I may have never served table-soup, but div-soup was on the menu.
Make it clean and lean

The article mentioned above made me think on minimizing containers. It made think on styling without using any artificially added container.

The challenge is produce only true semantic markup. Since, where's the semantic in a <div>?

First challenge: keeping it simple
A centered, fixed width design with a header, the menu on the left side and a one column content area

Let's consider this very simple layout. A centered, fixed width design with a header, the menu on the left side and a one column content area. For now just forget the footer.

Doing it quick and dirty we need the following:

  • A wrapping <div> to center everything in the browser.
  • A <div> for the header
  • A <div> for the content and the menu
  • The menu can be just a simple <ul>, we don't need the extra <div>. (Already doing some clean thinking here, better put another <div> around it.)
  • Finally, let's wrap the content in a <div>

So, there we go, a simple design and already we have four or even five <div>'s in there. We can put meaningful ID's or classes on these and feel already semantic. But no that's not really true. The <div>'s remain semantically void.

Challenge for you

I have wrestled a bit with this simple layout and have come up with a solution that uses no <div>'s what so ever. Only true clean semantic markup is used. Better still I only used one ID for the menu to be able to use <ul> within the content.

I have even extended the layout above to be more realistic without breaking the clean semantic markup.

The challenge for you my dear reader is that you can have a go a creating this layout without using any <div>'s.

Cliffhanger

No, I will not show you until a next time.

I am busy completing the example files and placing them on my web server. Until that is done I ask you to, virtually, hold your breath.

This article is part of a series of four

  1. First steps towards Clean Semantics
  2. The shape of Clean Semantics
  3. Clean Semantics: the three column attempt
  4. Clean Semantics in practice (Will follow shortly).

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mapping and image replacement

.. it's just more fun

Now my days at my present job are counted (and I am counting them down), I still am working on small improvements to the website. Well, I am still devoted to that, or better, I am still devoted to that.

Two things I am implementing now: Google Maps and sIFR (or Scalable Inman Flash Replacement) and these are interesting and fun. The best thing is that these are implemented based on ideas put forward by my colleagues and me, not by management. They, for one, have no idea what it is about and, secondly, rather pay for a service than get a better solution for free.

Google Maps

Right now we are using a payed mapping service that we can not even use within our website. We are opening the map in an annoying pop up and the look and feel of our website is completely lost.

It is quite easy to implement Google Maps within our website and preserve the look and feel. The only downside is that we would like to use the route planner functionality as well through the API. But that is sadly not exposed. I have looked at setting up a reverse engineered web service that would extract the route planning information (including the route on the map) from the original Google Map page. It seems possible and I think someone has done just that. I have seen it in action on a website but lost the url.

Anyhow, building such a website was possible and I know how to extract the data from the response, but it would be really silly to do just that. It would mean that we would make the website depending on the stability of the source of a web page produced by a third party. A small change could just ruin the experience. No, an API is a better thing to rely on.

sIFR

The good thing about sIFR is that works along the lines of "progressive enhancement". If the visitor does not has Flash or not right version or has JavaScript disabled, then the experience is not ruined. The experience is only not enhanced, but that's only the loss of a bonus and not the loss of a functionality.

Playing around with sIFR not just gave me some insight into this technique, but also some insight into Flash and above all Unicode and Code Pages. Characters like "é" and "€" at first refused to show up. Now, I know more about embedding fonts into Flash.

Well, talking about "progressive enhancement" for me personally there.

Taking a U-turn

Although, anything that you get for free from someone you don't know, should be approached with some reservation. You should check it thoroughly or else some funny results can come up.

This can lead to some interesting results I hope ;-)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Time to move on

.. don't look back

As noted previously there has been quite a few changes lately in the line-up of the team I work for. Luckily one developer returned from a long sick leave and so I was not the only one. But sadly for him the song continues.

  • Yes, it has been more than enough.
  • Yes, I have thrown the towel.
  • Yes, I am happy to leave.
  • No, I am not happy to leave behind good colleagues.
  • Yes, I am happy to leave some of the other colleagues.
  • Yes, I have a feeling that a less than satisfying period is drawing to a close.
But I don't look back in anger

Though I am bitterly disappointed in a lot of things, I won't look back in anger. It was an interesting period and I learned some valuable things and met some valuable people. I learned once again some very harsh lessons and maybe one day I will indeed use this knowledge and will not go for the soothing words and blue eyes.

Let's look back with a smile

Don't keep a grudge for life: it will never make you happy.

Bassie, famous Dutch philosopher and child and brother lover
Always keep smiling!

And luckily: we still have the pictures.

Parking habits

I did mention the parking habits of my colleagues before and here is one more example.

These cars are parked smack in the middle of the passage of the higher staff only area. There were more spots available.

More fun on the parking lot

Security is a good thing. People need to be aware. I am aware and will not publish pictures of how are security systems and rules work. Or not work. The following pictures just show that the weakest link in security are humans. And especially the nice ones.

Early one morning a van from a firm that would do some maintenance at our location arrived at the gate of our parking lot. You need a pass to get in or press a button and talk to the reception and they will let you through. This morning apparently there was no one at the reception so the van could not get in. However, a helpful colleague gave his pass to the van driver, who then got in and returned the pass. Mister Nice Guy, could not get in. The system had registered him as being inside already. So Mister Van Driver held the pass for the exit scanner and that didn't work either. So, he backed up his van and stopped in front the exit bar and tried again. The bar opened and Mister Nice Guy was now officialy out again. The system needed a couple of minutes of understanding this. Finally, he and the growing line of waiting cars were able to get in.

Just some more pictures

Looking around my office this is what I see.

Maybe just for my Dutch readers another example of the typical Dutch spelling.

p.s. I just love bananas!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hawking

.. quick one

Just a little something to smile about.

A lovely quote
Speaking to a sold out crowd at the Berkeley Physics Oppenheimer Lecture, Hawking said yesterday that he now believes the universe spontaneously popped into existence from nothing. He said more work is needed to prove this but we have time because 'Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end.'

Monday, March 05, 2007

Finding Zen in the garden

.. you have to look hard

When you try to find or achieve Zen you may need a life full of meditation, self refelection and inner peace. You may even need a long life filled with these ingredients.

Finding Zen is finding a pure state of existence, an existence away from bothersome thoughts and emotions. At first, this seems impossible.

Finding Zen in my humble (ignorant) opinion has to do with simplicity, with restraint. Achieving things through non-complication.

In comes the Garden

When I am talking about Zen and a Garden and when you know I am into web design and development you should immediately think of the CSS Zen Garden. The wonderful site that showed many many peopple how beautiful the web can be when one uses CSS. It proved that using CSS didn't mean you would get a blocky site. And a good job it did at that.

But we have moved on and the group of people using CSS to style websites has grown and the knowledge is spreading. Maybe it is time for the next step.

Where's the Zen in the Garden?

Getting back to my definition of achieving Zen: the simplicity, the restraint. Hold that in mind and open one of the beautiful pages of the CSS Zen Garden. Right. Admire and sit in awe. Wow!

Right, now do a view source of the page. Good chance you are not getting a feeling of Zen.

I know, I know, the HTML of CSS Zen Garden is made like this on purpose. To give CSS magicians extra divs do play with so that can achieve all these lovely designs.

But .. it's not Zen, IMHO.

Also, any good designed CSS site has loads of tags that do not directly have meaning. They are not adding anything from a semantical viewpoint. There are just placeholders. Nothing more than that. And to be absolutely sure we put placeholders around the placeholders.

Not really anywhere near Zen, IMHO.

Finding Zen

So, here is a new adventure. A new travel through the innersoul of web desginers and developers to once again purify and cleanse our code to try to achieve Zen.

I don't know whether I have found Zen in design, in the inner works of html pages, but I think I have made a small first step on a new journey.

Stay tuned to this blog and I will show my first steps on this new Road to Enlightenment.

In the meantime drink some green tea, do some yoga and meditate.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Less is more

.. more or less

One of the things that struck me with Microformats that quite a lot of tags were needed to describe the data elements of something like a business card (hCard). I know they are necessary. When you create a database table you don't want put the entire address in one big memo field. You can not do anything with that. You split up the address parts into separate fields and then you can do sorting and finding and what ever you like to do more.

Microformats bring the same possibilities of manipulation to the data that lies otherwise hidden in a web page. So, hooray for Microformats!

But still ..

I saw all these tags and then had a look at some webpages and saw all this tags. We used to have table-tag-soup and nowadays we produce and consume buckets full of div-tag-soup. Hmmmm.

And so I started thinking ...

And I thought: do we need all these tags?

And I started experimenting.

And things started to form in my head and in code ..

And now I am compiling an article with working examples to produce clean semantic markup that still has plenty of layout possibilities.

And thus, I ask of you some patience, before I publish this article.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

You better start to learn microformats!

.. or stay behind

Over on the great Digital Web Magazine there is an article about Learning Microformats. Although the url is a bit funny and shows they are human after all, the article is a great primer on microformats. The article include to links to PDFs of presentations that were given at Web Directions North by John Allsop and Dan Cederholm on the subject:

Podcasts of presentations will be available. Check out the Web Directions North site. Leaving through the slides it makes me wish I was there.

Again this is seems so natural

A few years ago I started out (again) on a journey to do something on the web. I wanted to build websites and do it the right way. I think I first was on the Internet in 1994. In those days things still ran on coal. I even put up a few web pages and showed it to a colleague. He replied that there were no images. There were links to my local C:-drive :-( I corrected that and filled up some pages and then really never bothered about them. Back in those days statistics didn't really exist. But I guess I must have had an audience of two.

The a couple of years passed and I wasn't really active in the web area. I build a couple of small applications that produced some reports in html format. I had even created a very simple templating system in Access for that. But nothing really on the wild then budding Internet Freeway. The Boom came and the Burst came and I just looked at it. One moment sad because I wasn't in it and then happy because I wasn't in it.

Then, gradually, I rolled a bit more into websites. I started making my own and I immediately had the urge to do things proper. I skipped table-based design completely. Main reason being that I didn't have the tools that produced such a design. I was (and still am) a hand coder pur sang. And how one can create a beautiful design with all these stupid nested tables I could honestly not understand. I was forced to use something else.

And then ...

  • CSS
  • I discovered A List Apart
  • I discovered CSS Zen Garden
  • I discovered all these nasty bugs
  • I discovered that there were more than one browser
  • I discovered bugs, quirks and hacks
  • and slowly and surely, I understood
    <div>s
    and
    float:right
  • and I started love CSS and web standards and semantics
  • and I understood that SEO and usability were also somehow benefited from developing this way.

I became a standardista!

Then the real world application came

I made some websites for some small companies and then I got hired by a reasonable well known Dutch insurance company. I got to work on their "new" website. And I had the opportunity to put my knowledge into practice. And shaved loads of excess weight form the pages and tried to be as semantically correct as possible.

I stayed on top of things emerging on the web and implemented Google Sitemaps as soon as the website was live. And watched it succeed. I was amazed that it worked so well.

And then we had a Google Mini appliance (now we have two) and that needed implementation. I was the lucky one who got that task. Using the API and a simple web service the site was hooked up and Bang we had search implemented. And I used the <dl> tag for the first time in real life. And then later I used it again!

Hold on, Roho, don't get too excited now.

Back on earth

Having taking a deep breath and a glass of water, let's continue.

To me all these things showed me that these are great times to be involved in web development. Coding away in C#, CSS, XML and XHTML is just absolutely great.

It also showed me that doing this the right way has many benefits: leaner pages, better search results, easier to adapt layout, better usability and many more.

By doing the right thing, you fear no one

Inspired by the motto of my regiment: "By doing the right thing, you fear no one" I say "By doing the right thing, you do the right thing". Hmm, maybe not as powerful, but still right.

Regiment Huzaren van Sytzama
By doing the right thing, you fear no one

I had discovered for myself and proven to myself that these standard based xhtml and css and stuff just simply work.

And I stayed on top of the (r)evolution.

And here comes the next wave!

Now, in the last few months I found some posts about microformats. And it got my attention and I studied it. And now I am beginning to implement it on our company website. First the hCard and later more will follow.

Roho
By doing the right thing, you do the right thing
And more will come

Looking at the wonderful stuff that was presented at Web Directions North I realize that many more things are just only slowly coming our way. We have our first implementation of AJAX as well and we will put sIFR to use in the coming months, maybe weeks.

I start to see that in this business sticking with knowledge is falling behind. If you have yet to learn CSS and still stick to tables than you are already becoming more and more of a dinosaur. And we all know what happened to them!

With upcoming things like all these social networks, mashups, microformats, AJAX and many more exciting things being invented almost every day it seems, it becomes harder and harder to stay close to the leading edge. It is starting to become close to impossible once you have fallen just a tiny bit behind.

Better start studying, girls and boys

If you want to be and stay in this business you gotta learn and work and try and fiddle about.

Catch up on XHTML and CSS and then jump on the microformat bandwagon and keep your eyes open for any new developments. Learn, learn, learn!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Pipes: Want to read Dutch?

.. or just want a laugh?

Last week Yahoo surprised me with Yahoo Pipes. With Yahoo Pipes you can quite easily drag and drop a mashup together that takes information from several sources, do some transformation on that and present the result in a new page that one can easily link to.

As with all good Web 2.0 practices the mashups are shared and you can take one built by someone else and change it, tweak it to your personal pleasure or use it as the source for your own Pipes mashup.

Sounds like a lot of fun!

And fun it is! I started playing with it a bit and took the feed of this blog and piped it through the BabelFish translator to produce a version of the feed in my own native language: Dutch. A bit scary to say the least.

Well, this is a link to the Dutch version of this blog. Or use the RSS feed. Enjoy!

Or wanna see some pictures from animals?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

IE 7 is coming fast!

.. and IE 6 is going just as fast!

I had a look at the numbers of the website of the company I work for. I have added a paragraph below.

Just had a quick look at my site's statistics and found that Internet Explorer 7 is being adopted rapidly. Many users have installed (probably with knowing) the automatic update.

In januari I had 58% IE6 and 41% IE7 (when looking only at IE) and now just a few days into februari the numbers have changed dramatically: IE6 is down to 34% and IE7 up to 63%!! In december 2006 it was completely the other way around: IE6 69% and IE7 30% So, the push operation is steady, but very, very surely!

Comparing to Firefox

As this is a very specific site a large number of users use other browsers so it should not be a surprise that the percentage of Firefox users is bigger than what is a normal average.

The numbers are stable over the last months: a little over 50% IE users and around 38% Firefox users. A clear sign that the IE7 users are not switching back from Firefox they are just forced IE7 users.

The same once again using bigger numbers

I decided to have a look at the numbers of the website of the compay I work for. These should be more reliable as the number of visitors is way bigger (between 200,000 and 350,000 a month).

The share of is consistent over the last months on about 80%. Firefox brings in 8%. The ratio of IE6 to IE7 shows a very familiar pattern:

  • December: IE6 92%,IE7 7%
  • January: IE6 75%,IE7 24%
  • Februari: IE6 62%,IE7 36%
Conclusion

For all those web developers out there who are mainly targetting IE6 I have a simple warning: you are falling behind once more. IE7 has not only caught up, but has overtaken you left and right. It's now becoming more and more important to build standard based websites as many of your current rigs will break with most of your ordinary visitors. When you think you can offer your clients an IE7 compatibility upgrade for a reasonable price than I can only say that you are ripping of your clients!

Tags:

Last.fm has got a new player!

.. and I love it!

This is probably out for like centuries. But I have not been about that much lately. Last.fm has a new player out. The previous one was simple, minimalistic. And I loved it for that. The new one is slick, fully features and extra information on the current playing track and artist. And I love it for that.

I think it is a quite unexpected surprise to see something go from simple and minimalistic to something fully equiped and still appealing and easy to use. Like going from a simple mp3 player to a bigger thing that you can use also to call your friends and check your email and you still just need to have and show off in public. Not many companies can pull that off!

Go and get it! I say.

Why wait?

Tags:

Where am I?

.. and how did I get here?

Well, my titles are probably not always the best. In this case I could not think of anything better quickly, sorry.

Our company has several branch offices scattered around the northern part of the country. So, where ever a (potential) customer lives an offices should be quite close. Still, the customer may not know. Therefore we have put the branch offices on our website and through a simple map of our country you get a list of offices close by. Then it should be relatively easy to select the right one.

We also give them the address of the office and show it on a map. As icing on the cake we can show them the route from their home to the office. We are still working on teleporting them to the office but we are struggling with health regulations. Oops, got carried away. A little bit too much Doctor Who and Star Trek.

Back to normal

Anyway, the map and routeplanner we purchase from a specialized company and well, uhm, it just sort of works. We have the map in a popup window and that means that people are leaving our site, at least a little bit. And we do not have full control on the look and feel of the map. It's simply not our design.

It works, but ...

Yes, it works and we do offer what we would like to offer, but it's just not completely what we want. So, being a Google fan I decided to give Google Maps a spin. That has an API and well having played with other Google APIs I know they are usually easy to implement.

Even, with these previous experience I was amazed at how quickly and easy it was to get things going. In two days I have now a good Proof Of Concept that shows the map with a custom icon for the office within our site. I have some tweaking to, but functionally that is complete.

How do I get there?

Leaves me with just one puzzle: the routeplanner. But I have found a site that has a solution for that one so I might be able to deconstruct that and re-use it for our site. Yes, I will include a thank you message in the code.

Onward, onward, onward

When all that is over we can end a contract for a service we do no longer need and have replaced by something better.

We can also change the map where we select the area and then let the user pick from a list of offices. That can be replaced with yet another Google Map with markers for all offices and we can zoom in each click or we zoom in using the adddress the user enters.

Finally: the icing on the cake

Along with all this I have introduced Microformats in the form an hCard for representing the address data for the branch offices. And using another favorite of mine: a Firefox extension, namely Operator I have tested the format and have found that it is very easy to add the data to my contact list in Outlook.

It has been a couple of days of fun at the office.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The spam tsunami has passed

.. at least so it seems

Gmail is quite good at filtering spam mails. Only occasionally I find one in my Inbox. Then I can simply click the button report spam and I hope that that will make the filter even better.

Before the last holidays I used to have a little over 300 messages in my spam box. Just before Christmas that started to rise dramatically. Within a couple of days it had passed 1100! And still only every now and then one would make it to my inbox.

And since the New Year has begun it has slowly decreased again and I am now back again at a score of 485. Still well above the 320 or so I used to have until early December 2006, but way below the peak of 1150.

So it seems that the spam boys and girls have eased off a tad and are maybe spending their well earned money. And perhaps pondering the next wave of spam for the next season.

But still the number has risen considerably and I fear that I will see a flood in the not so distant future that will bring me above 2000.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Disclaimer

A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum LondonImage via Wikipedia

.. just to disclaim

This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer, albeit past, present or future.

In addition, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time... I consider this a necessary consequence of having a brain. This blog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot and manifestation of the various thoughts and ideas that wander through my mind. As such any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not the same, nor even similar, to those I may hold today.

WARNING!

This blogs contains:

  • humor
  • irony
  • sarcasm
  • carefully mispelled words
  • NO sheep

I reserve the right to evolve my knowledge, thoughts, and viewpoints over time and to change them without assigning any reason.

Roho's Diary includes links to other sites and / or blogs operated by third parties. These are provided as a form of easy access to you, the much apreciated visitor to the information / opinion contained therein. I am in no way responsible for the content of any other sites or any products or services that may be offered through other sites.

Comments policy

Comments are welcome. However, note that, tasteless and insulting comments may be deleted. Any personal remarks and attacks may be deleted. The same holds true for off-topic comments. Any comments that are clearly link spam or marketing messages WILL be deleted. I can not be held responsible for the content in comments other than those made by me, or in blogs or other online content that I may link to.

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No animals were harmed in the making of this blog.

Since this blog is written in English (not my first language) only comments in English will be allowed.

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