Days: it’s a blog thing

Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…

Thursday, January 09, 2003 ↓


Actually, you don’t need to buy it, you can have it for free. Take a look under Displays at the new Free HTML books page. You’ll find out about some work I began on etexts from Project Gutenberg (the source of the text for The Diary of Samuel Pepys, which I mentioned recently). Then get yourself a classic piece of Scottish fiction. For nothing. Nada. Rien. Zilch.

Posted at 5:17 AM


Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about the (not entirely unexpected) announcement from Apple that they have built their own web browser for OS X. As web developers we’ve just got used to the crop of browsers that we really need to cope with; we’ve found hacks to get around IE5.X/Win’s incorrect box model, IE5/Mac’s incorrect positioning of background images, and so on… and we even hide style sheets completely from the most incompetent browsers. And damnit, along comes another one, which by virtue of the fact it comes from such a major and important source, will doubtless gain some popularity.

Oh, Safari looks great on paper (well, OK, on the Apple web site):

Precision layout
Rest assured, Safari renders Web pages properly according to the latest Internet standards. So pages that use advanced HTML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, JavaScript and Java specifications just look right.

“Rest assured”, eh? I guess that must be a wish list for a full release, because it certainly doesn’t describe the current beta, as Mark Pilgrim found when he dived into it.

So, I suspect we’re going to have to come up with another batch of workarounds for the CSS bugs that Safari will surely bring with it. Actually, I hope that one of the current hiding methods will work with Safari, and I’ll just deliver a plain vanilla presentation to it until it has developed such that it really does render pages according to the latest Internet standards. I have less and less patience with browsers that can’t comply with years old W3C recommendations.

(Of course, I have another problem. Right now, I have no convenient way of testing sites on Safari as it only runs on OS X — and so far I have steadfastly resisted upgrading from OS9. Why? Oh, that’s a whole other story…)

Posted at 5:11 AM


If you’re reading this, Edwin, will you get in touch? I wanted to drop you a note but you don’t have any contact details on your site. (Nothing sinister, man, it’s just about this.)

Posted at 5:08 AM


Another little linky-dink has sneaked in at the bottom of the “Regularly watches” list (see the sidebar). I confess I’ve tended to think that webrings are rather naff, but that might be an unfair generalisation based on my observation that so many of them are dedicated to — how shall I put it? — unusual special interest groups, and some of the member sites I have been curious enough to look at have been amongst the worst train wrecks I have seen on the Web.

But… I’ve been getting more and more curious to know who in Scotland (and particularly my own city of Edinburgh) is regularly pouring out their thoughts on the Web. I’ve found it difficult to track down blogs from the region, so this ring caught my eye. It’s all still a bit new and doesn’t have many members yet, but I’m keen to see it grow and to find some quality writing and design. We Scots can rant, rave and write with the best of them. As they say:

Here’s tae us!
Wha’s like us?
Damn few…
And they’re a’ deid!

(Traditional Scottish toast, which alternatively might be expressed as: “Raise your glasses and let us toast ourselves; for who on this Earth can stand comparison with us? Frankly, an infinitesimally small number; and they are without exception long deceased.”)

Posted at 4:53 AM

Tuesday, January 07, 2003 ↓


Jon Johansen, the teenager that the Motion Picture Association of America dragged through the courts because of DeCSS — his software for unscrambling the content of DVDs so he could play them on a Linux box — has been acquitted.

I suppose it remains to be seen what impact this decision will have elsewhere in the world. Undoubtedly the reaction of the MPAA will be to say that it’s easy for the Norwegians to make a decision like this, because they don’t have a significant film business — and will lobby hard to maintain the kind of protection they believe the Digital Millennium Copyright Act affords them in the USA. Norway, of course, isn’t in the EU. Had it been, it would have made the ruling very interesting in terms of precedent for the rest of the Union.

Posted at 2:47 PM

Monday, January 06, 2003 ↓


Yes, at last you can find something under the Displays section: and it’s a freebie. Looking for a blog/web page template? Can I interest you in my Bauhaus-inspired Bloghaus design? Full of XHTML 1.0 and CSS2 goodness, and not a table in site (not for layout purposes, anyway). All ready-equipped with the necessary tags for use with Blogger, should you so wish. And did I mention it’s free?

From time to time, I’ll add further designs; in fact I have another Bauhaus-style job in mind already. I tend not to do things by halves, so you’ll find pretty comprehensive instructions, graphics, style information, and the like with each set as it becomes available. Check out the first.

Posted at 6:10 PM

1 JANUARY 1660 –

I know everyone is linking to this, but I must too: The Diary of Samuel Pepys. It’s just such a brilliant idea. Why? Well, lots of people would like to read Pepys’ diary. But the diary is a Rather Large Book. Lots of people are put off by Rather Large Books. So here’s a way to read the diary in bite-sized chunks, one day at a time, as Phil Gyford publishes it on the Web. And yes, had Pepys started writing his diary today, I’m sure this is how he would have done it. Though he might not have posted some of his racier entries.

Posted at 4:15 PM


My little aside about common misuse of the word “presently” towards the end of a previous post reminded me of a couple of pages I came across recently:

  1. Talk Good - 10 Useful Hints for Everyday Grammar by Sean Nelson.
  2. How to Write Like a Wanker by Matt Olson.

Even discounting users of l337-speak (who are clearly //4|\||<3rz anyway and merit no further discussion), the abuse of language I see sometimes on the Web and in e-mails makes me cringe. Some of it may be laziness attributable to the common perception that internet communication is quick and informal — though surely that depends upon the purpose and audience, no? — but I wonder.

(Hmmm. Sometimes I catch myself sounding like Joe Clark.)

Posted at 4:10 PM


In my recent absence, I missed posting this from December 31 — a rather appropriate date for the story. Substituting one alcohol with another is an interesting cure. Or maybe the real idea was more like, “No, madam, this won’t actually cure you — but you’ll feel a lot better before you leave us.”

Posted at 4:03 PM

Sunday, January 05, 2003 ↓


Regular readers (both of you) will have noticed it’s been mighty quiet around these parts for some weeks; a silence uninterrupted even by the wish to offer the traditional compliments of the season around Christmas (I really ought to have said God Jul!) and the New Year. So what’s been going on?

  • From the latter part of November and right up to the Christmas break, I was in “feet not touching the ground” mode — the major reason for letting things slide here. Suffice to say a good deal of the time was spent working in Gothenburg with, save for KLM’s best efforts to kill me off one day, nothing exciting to report.
  • On November 25, a note from Christina landed in my inbox, inviting me to celebrate the launch of her new book. (A year or so ago, Christina was having a bit of a CSS nightmare when trying to redesign her site without tables. I was happy to whip her style sheets into obedience for her.) Sadly there are rather too many miles between Edinburgh/Gothenburg and San Francisco to have made attendance at the bash remotely practical. But the book is on my wish list, to which none of my friends or relatives ever seem to pay the slightest attention!
  • More e-mail. It’s always nice to receive a compliment about the site’s design, especially from someone who himself clearly has a talent for it. Nik Rawlinson is Deputy Editor of Personal Computer World magazine and presents a technology talk show on LBC. He also maintains a rather nice blog, from the look of which I’d say he shares my taste for clean, uncluttered presentation.
  • For the first time, I actually contrived to be in Sweden on Lucia day. I had the opportunity to watch a lussetåg (the procession of children headed by a girl representing St. Lucia) by kids of the employees of the company I visit in Gothenburg. Unfortunately, the whole thing kicked off around 7:30 in the morning, and I didn’t quite make it… and nobody saved any lussekatter for me.
  • Another year older, and deeper in debt. My birthday (with a domain name like, you don’t have to ask when it is) passed by without my noticing it, as tends to happen when you get older. I spent most of the day travelling home from Gothenburg, and steeling myself for the annual running of the gauntlet (or Christmas shopping, as some people call it).
         I’ve bemoaned elsewhere the fact that I don’t seem to share my birthday with anyone rich or famous, but I do share it with a few bloggers, like Brad, Jane and Angie.
  • I haven’t been entirely idle here recently. I’ve been doing a lot of housekeeping stuff; tidying up code, moving files around, and the like. There isn’t a single page on the site that hasn’t been tweaked in some way, but most of it is invisible to the observer using a graphical web browser. Little accessibility improvements, that sort of thing. A more major style sheet re-hash is on the horizon, because when I created this layout, I had to do a few oddball things to make it work in the browsers of the time. With the most recent releases, I think I can probably achieve the same result in a more elegant way. I still have a stupid archiving problem to sort out, at the root of which is Blogger: I think a “manual” fix will be necessary.
         My “Regularly watches” list (see the sidebar) changes from time to time, and I’ve updated that too. New arrivals from the media game are The Guardian Weblog and the BBC’s Scotblog, which provide some good links; for their excellent work on CSS and accessibility I now welcome the admirable Mark Pilgrim and Tantek Çelik; and John Robinson has a new domain name for his Sore Eyes blog, which now sports a cleaner (though still distinctly “no nonsense”) design and remains a first-class source of links and commentary on the Web, TV, movies and much else.
         And… I’ve taken advantage of the holiday period to finish off another little project which will be appearing here presently (which, by the way, means soon and not currently, as every half-assed television news reporter seems to think these days).

So there we are. Six or seven weeks in as many paragraphs. Maybe I should be aiming for that brevity anyway…

Posted at 7:51 PM

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Older material is stashed away under Replays.