April 2005

Album Cover: In Rainbows

"Words are a sawed-off shotgun."
Radiohead / Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Firefox Turns 50

April 30, 2005 10:47 AM

Congratulations to Firefox for turning 50 today, so to speak. According to Spread Firefox's commemorative page, Firefox reached the 50 million download milestone at 8:58 AM Pacific this morning.

My hat goes off to Ben Goodger, Blake Ross, Asa Dotzler and the rest of the crew for achieving such an amazing feat. Can't wait to see Firefox hit 100!

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With Teeth

April 27, 2005 9:05 AM

I'm listening to an exclusive online leak of the upcoming Nine Inch Nails release, With Teeth. There is no doubt in my mind that this album is going to pull all the TDS fans back into the fray. I think The Fragile scared off more than a few fans (myself not included), but With Teeth is already reminding me a lot of The Downward Spiral, and even a little bit of Fixed and Broken.

With Teeth brings back some of the aural maelstroms that made The Downward Spiral so awesome, but it also includes some of the brilliantly crafted basslines that were present in The Fragile. I feel like this new album has a lot more melody overall, and maybe not so much dissonance. The lyrics are strong, and most should be happy to know that "The Hand That Feeds" is no indicator at all of what the rest of this album has to offer.

So far, "Every Day Is Exactly The Same," the title track (which has an awesome, NIN-patented pause in the middle and a very unique chorus), "Getting Smaller" (talk about aural maelstroms!) and "Beside You In Time" are my early favorites. Given that "The Hand That Feeds" has actually grown on me, I can honestly say there isn't a single song on this album that I don't like. I seriously can't wait to have the album in my hands...or better yet, in my stereo.

For those out there who aren't into the whole "buying music" thing (it's so 90s, right?), it looks like there is already a torrent available.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Trent Reznor is the man.

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A Night with The Killers

April 25, 2005 1:00 AM

My girlfriend and I drove into downtown to see The Killers tonight (no, I didn't get a ticket this time). Other than the surprisingly young, female crowd, which made me feel a little out of place, the show was great and they managed to make a small repertoire of material seem fresh and new. Their new song, "Stereo of Lies," sounds like it could be a hit on their next album.

Tegan and Sara were excellent as the opening act, too. If The Killers are coming to your town anytime soon, I highly recommend seeing them. Oh, and Bullz-Eye has a much more detailed review of a typical show on the current tour (though I think the one I saw tonight was just a tad better than the one described there).

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Google Juice

April 23, 2005 3:31 PM

It looks like I've now got a little bit of what Robert Scoble might refer to as "Google Juice." Lately it seems whenever I post about something, my entry almost immediately bounces to the top of Google's search results. Am I complaining? Of course not. Afterall, there have only been a couple cases where the juice had adverse effects.

To see what I mean, try doing a Google search for "taxes suck," "CSS3 opacity," or "how bittorrent works."

Because I've been rather successful in turning a rarely visited home page into a prosperous blog, I've been considering writing here about some of the techniques I've used to make it happen. Granted, I had no idea what I was doing when I first did it, but because hindsight is 20/20, I believe I have some pointers that might prove useful to others who are trying to increase the exposure of their blog. Now that I've written that down, hopefully I'll hold myself to it. Keep an eye out.

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Google and BitTorrent

April 21, 2005 8:59 AM

I have this friend. For anonymity's sake we'll refer to him as "Bernie." Bernie wanted to download Weezer's new single, Beverly Hills really, really badly. He tried all the usual tricks (i.e. WinMX), and eventually got referred to an application called Shareaza. He gave that program a try, and even though it is open source and has a UI that tramples on all other P2P clients that I...I mean Bernie...has seen, he hasn't been all that impressed with the functionality. Searching is slow, results returned never seem to have enough of the actual source being search for, etc. Needless to say, Bernie was ecstatic when he went to Google this morning, typed in "beverly hills weezer torrent" and found what he was looking for at the very first search result.

Long live Google and BitTorrent. Together, they are greater than the sum of their parts.

Or so Bernie tells me.

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GrayModern on CD

April 17, 2005 6:40 PM

Last weekend I was contacted by SitePoint regarding my GrayModern theme for Firefox. Apparently they want to include it on a CD that will be accompanying their upcoming book, "Firefox Secrets." Apparently the book should be published sometime in the upcoming weeks, and it was written by none other than Chu Yeow (with tech editing by Asa Dotzler). Needless to say, the book should be good. I'll soon be able to say for sure since they'll be sending me a copy for giving them permission to include GrayModern on the CD. If you're interested, you can see some of SitePoint's previous book releases over at their site.

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Ever Evolving

April 17, 2005 2:03 PM

You may or may not know this, but I use a custom CMS for managing and maintaining my blog. I don't use WordPress, Movable Type nor any other publicly available CMS. Instead, I use a CMS that I coded myself, and that continues to evolve over time. Usually my CMS evolves out of pure necessity, as opposed to me just tinkering because of an abundance of time on my hands. If I had any extra time on my hands, I'd doubtless be working on other things.

Today, the evolution continued. I noticed that a ton of people have been coming to my blog after searching for "gmail problems" on Google. The funny thing is, it all stemmed from me whining about Gmail outages or oddities that lasted for no longer than an hour. The unfortunate side-effect, though, has been the snowball-effect of people coming in, commenting with descriptions of their more serious problems, and thus in turn increasing the page-ranking of that particular post. At this point, two of the top four search results for that query point to my blog.

In order to try and stem the tide a bit, I've implemented the ability to lock posts so that commenting is no longer allowed. This is something I never anticipated having to do, especially since I never really anticipated getting enough traffic at my blog to actually get comments in the first place. Nevertheless, I must have had an optimistic moment at some point, because commenting was added way back in September of 2003. Now, in April of 2004, I've locked my first post. Visitors will no longer be able to comment on Gmail Problems. Hopefully that will help me get off the Google radar in that particular area of interest.

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Trent Reznor is the Man

April 17, 2005 1:11 PM

Trent Reznor is the man. That's all there is to it.

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Firefox Cleans Up Good

April 16, 2005 10:11 PM

I upgraded to Firefox 1.0.3 tonight and, as promised, it cleaned up after itself in Add/Remove Programs. In fact, both the 1.0.1 and 1.0.2 entries were cleaned up with the new install. Needless to say, I'm no longer so crabby.

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Acid2

April 15, 2005 8:18 PM

I've been meaning to blog about the Acid2 test for a few days now. When I first laid eyes on the actual test I immediately thought, "that's it?" All that's there is some hokey looking smiley with the obligatory "Hello World!" lingering over its head like a geeked-out halo.

As it turns out, though, this "hokey" little test exposes some pretty nasty holes in the CSS support of the major web browsers.

Originally I intended on grabbing screenshots of the test's renderings in Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer and Firefox and putting them all side-by-side to compare against the reference rendering provided by the Web Standards Project. That was before I saw how the test is rendered in Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari. Their renderings are a far cry from that of Firefox.

That isn't to say, though, that Firefox is leading the pack in terms of support, at least as of today. If you've paid any attention at all to Dave Hyatt's blog, you've seen the flurry of fixes he has been making in order to bring Safari up to speed with the standards tested by Acid2. At the same time, and to be fair, I haven't read up much (yet) on the progress that has been made in Gecko. That will change, though, as I've added my email address to the Bugzilla bug being used to track the progress of adding full Acid2 support to Firefox's rendering engine.

As it turns out, odds seem to be in Safari's favor for passing the Acid2 test first, with Opera just a tad behind. However, not everyone agrees. It will be very interesting to see how things progress as developers like Dave Hyatt and David Baron, who have proven they are worth their own weight in gold, compete to meet total Acid2 compliance first.

If you're interested in the Acid2 test, I highly suggest reading Acid2 is up, Acid2 Let Loose, A shot across IE's bow (including Robert Scoble's response) and Interview with Hakon Wium Lie.

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Don't Forget the Trailing Slash

April 12, 2005 6:40 AM

While perusing through my feed subscriptions this morning, I was reminded of a simple web-browsing rule-of-thumb, so I thought I'd share it here.

The latest post at the IEBlog says:

When generating hyperlinks, always include a trailing slash if possible. For instance, navigating to http://msdn.microsoft.com/ie takes one more roundtrip than http://msdn.microsoft.com/ie/. When the browser navigates to the /ie url, the server merely sends down a 301 to the /ie/ url. Both links work, but the second version is faster.

Several months ago I was investigating some redirection I had setup on this site. I downloaded the LiveHTTPHeaders extension for Firefox and began looking at the HTTP headers being sent back and forth by my browser and my website as I browsed to various URIs.

What I noticed in the process was the behavior described over at the IEBlog. Whenever I typed in an address, I would get a 301 status code redirecting me to the exact same address with a trailing slash on the end. Ever since, I've made it a habit of including the trailing slash on the end of all applicable URIs I visit or link to.

You should too!

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Cease and Desist

April 11, 2005 8:16 PM

I got my very first Cease and Desist letter today. Apparently Paul Mitchell, Internet Anti-Piracy Administrator, didn't appreciate me hosting a few live Coldplay recordings and the recently leaked, unmixed version of their song "Talk" that has been floating around the web as of late. So he decided to send a letter to my ugly step-sister of a web host (not to be confused with the web host I'm always bragging about) and they, in turn, shut my entire site down. Gotta love that.

Anyway, I've already removed the files in question, even though I disagree with the idea that recordings from a live show (bootlegged, not official) are copyrighted by the performing band, and have opened a ticket with the ugly step-sister requesting that they reactivate my site (which hosts my GrayModern theme, among many other files). We'll have to see how the whole things plays out.

And to think my parents always considered me to be their good son ;)

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Relative Links in Bloglines

April 10, 2005 10:55 PM

I just noticed tonight that when Bloglines encounters a relative link in an RSS or Atom feed, it simply treats it as if it was a relative link in the domain of the Bloglines website. This is extremely unfortunate, because I typically use relative links whenever I link back to my own site (e.g. when linking to previous posts, my contact form, etc.). Even though I do provide full-text entries in my feed, being a web designer at heart, I do like the thought of the occasional reader coming by to lay his or her eyes on my actual site.

I started to contact Bloglines regarding the matter, but then I realized that deciphering the actual location of a relative link isn't always straightforward. When using relative links on my blog, I almost always include the leading slash (e.g. /item.php?id=187), so in those cases it wouldn't be hard for Bloglines to deduce that the actual link should point to http://www.bernzilla.com/item.php?id=187. In the case where a leading slash isn't provided, though, the actual link location isn't as easy to determine. For instance, I recently posted a link to the discussion forum at my Coldplay site that showed up in that site's RSS feed as simply a link to discussion. Because in that particular case a leading slash would point site visitors to the wrong location, it makes it that much harder for Bloglines to determine what URI I meant to link to. Why? Because my feed may not always exist in an intuitive location. This site's feed, for instance, lives in a feed folder that is separate from the site's other main files.

So why use relative links in the first place? Well, I've learned the hard way that absolute links make moving to a new domain a pain in the arse. While I don't plan on moving away from Bernzilla.com anytime soon, I've also learned never to say never. Plus, as others have pointed out, relative links do not hinder search engine visibility in any way, and actually allow for less bandwidth consumption when used religiously.

While I think Bloglines could be a bit smarter about the way they handle relative links, I also can see why handling them on a global scale may not be feasible, or at least practical. It's just one of those things I guess I'll have to live with, because I don't see myself switching to absolute links any time soon.

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Firefox to Clean Up After Itself

April 10, 2005 3:25 PM

Remember how I complained about Firefox not cleaning up after itself last month? Well, according to Asa Dotzler, that will no longer be the case in the next 1.0 release.

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Walkabout

April 09, 2005 6:18 PM

My girlfriend and I both needed a haircut today, so, since the sun was shining, we decided to walk to University Avenue from our house. Along the way we noticed all the tulips that are sprouting up everywhere (reminding us that we need to head up to the Skagit Valley soon) and managed to notice a lot of shops within walking distance of our home that we previously hadn't known existed.

After grabbing a bite to eat at Pagliacci, we got our hair cut (neither one of us is happy with the damage) and then ventured into the many stores on the Ave. Most of them were very female-shopper oriented (imagine that), but peace was made when I got to spend a good 20 minutes in Cellophane Square and came away with two used Depeche Mode albums.

On our way home, we stopped by the little German store that we had noticed on our way to the Ave and we managed to leave with zwei Schokoladen, vier Laugen und ein Fleischsalat. Mmm.

Even considering the rain on our way home, our little neighborhood walk proved very fruitful. It just shows it pays to take a little stroll every now and then. You never know what you might find along the way.

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Taxes Suck

April 08, 2005 1:22 AM

I decided to buy TurboTax this year and file my taxes on my own for the first time. A couple weeks ago I finished most of the grunt work in TurboTax, but finding out that I owe the government over $1,300 put actually filing my taxes on the backburner for a while.

When Ryan McElroy posted to his blog about an IRS rejection he received earlier this week, it reminded me that I only have a few days left to get this tax crap taken care of.

I fired up TurboTax again tonight, looked over my forms one more time, and then printed everything up (I'm going to make payments rather than paying in one big chunk, so I couldn't e-file), only to realize afterward that the sales tax deduction I had entered (living in Washington makes this a bigger deal than it might be for people elsewhere in the country) had not made a dent in my total amount owed to the government.

This had me vexed for quite some time, and it wasn't until after digging aimlessly through the TurboTax support site that I came across a forum post that solved my dilemma:

Your total itemized deductions are less than your standard deduction, so TurboTax uses the standard deduction because it gives you a greater tax benefit. Changes in itemized deductions then have no effect, because they are not being used, unless the total itemized deductions increase enough to be larger than the standard deduction.

So it turns out that the standard deduction of $4,850 for single people who file was larger than my itemized deductions (student loan interest, sales tax, etc.) so it overrode in my case.

Now I can stop pulling my hair out, throw all this tax mumbo jumbo in an envelope and call it a night.

Just as a side note, writing this post has shown me just how difficult it is to type the word "tax" over and over again.

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Tracking Packages with Bloglines

April 07, 2005 9:21 PM

When I heard that Bloglines had added the ability to track packages via RSS, I thought it was a great idea.

Only a few days after hearing the news, I ordered some books and a CD from Amazon.com. When my order confirmation contained a USPS tracking number for tracking my package, I thought, "hmm...maybe I'll add this to Bloglines." So I did.

In the time between then and now, I received two updates in Bloglines, the first when the package left its origin in Nevada, and the second when it was en route in Federal Way, Washington. I checked one last time tonight right before leaving work and noticed no new update, so imagine my surprise when I arrived home to find the package at my front door.

I've yet to try the service with UPS or FedEx, so maybe the tracking works a little better with those services. If not, hopefully they'll work out some of the kinks before I make my next online purchase because I really think the service is a creative use of syndication.

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Back On Top

April 04, 2005 9:15 PM

Tarheel Logo

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An Hour Lost

April 03, 2005 3:22 AM

Wow, it's already after 3? But it only feels like 2. The same number Illinois will feel like come Monday night.

Go 'heels!

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Why Internet Explorer 7 is a Bad Idea

April 01, 2005 11:52 PM

About a year ago I was firing off a bunch of Internet Explorer 7 speculation, basically saying that by adding features like tabbed browsing and popup blocking and better support for CSS 2 and 3, Microsoft could reign in the web browser world yet again. Granted, that was before Firefox 1.0 shook that world to its foundation, and at a time when I still had faith in Internet Explorer.

Now that November 9th is behind us and real details are starting to surface about the impending release of Internet Explorer 7, I have a whole new perspective on things.

Internet Explorer 7 may be a bad idea. Microsoft should seriously consider what they're about to do.

First off, from a developer's standpoint, the biggest gain Internet Explorer 7 needs to make is in the area of CSS support. Without this, developers will not take the new version seriously, and will consider it to be to IE 6 what SP2 was to XP – pretty pointless.

So what of this particular potential for betterment? Internet Explorer 7's support for CSS will be as bad as that of Internet Explorer 6. Why? Because apparently better support is not possible.

As if that wasn't enough, let's look from a user's standpoint and see what Internet Explorer 7 brings to the table. From what I've heard, the IE team is busy working on tabbed browsing, PNG support, RSS integration and the like in an effort to play catch-up with better browsers like Firefox, Safari and Opera.

By doing so, I feel that the folks at Microsoft will be shooting themselves in the foot. Probably the only thing going for Microsoft right now is the fact that the other browsers are so unfamiliar to long-time Internet Explorer users. By adding support for the popular features of those other browsers, Microsoft is only making it easier for said users to make the switch to browsers that provide better support for standards, better security, and virtually the same feature set.

In my opinion, Firefox supporters should be rooting for Microsoft in this case. If the IE team does what it looks like it's going to do, I predict that Firefox will continue chewing up market share and the so-called two browser world will quickly become a thing of the past.

From the looks of things, security may be the only real thing going for Microsoft's next browser release. Is it enough, though? I think IE users have gotten all the security they need by switching to Firefox.

Who knows though? Last year, Internet Explorer was safe for a total of one week. Maybe after version 7 is released they'll be able to increase that stat to two weeks?

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Foregone Illusions

April 01, 2005 10:41 AM

Your soft surrender
Will not stand here
Your sweet embrace
Will only wither
The master here
Is not a winged one
He paralyzes
And he slithers

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Gmail to Become Bottomless Pit

April 01, 2005 9:16 AM

News.com is reporting that, a year after shocking everyone with their claim that they would give Gmail users 1GB of storage space, Google is now raising the bar, promising to turn Gmail's storage into a bottomless pit over time:

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Web giant on Friday plans to double the free storage on Gmail from 1GB to 2GB, said Georges Harik, Gmail product management director. After that, Google will add a yet-to-be-determined amount of extra storage daily, with no plans to stop.

And we thought the browser wars were fun!

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