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.


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


.. 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.