September 2004

Album Cover: Blue Room EP

"Such a rush to do nothing at all."
Coldplay / Such a Rush

The Future of Web Browsing

September 30, 2004 11:33 AM

I was happy to see this morning that C|Net has a special section of their site dedicated to Internet Explorer, and more importantly, the future of Web browsing.

The first article, IE--embraced, extended, extinct?, raises several key points regarding what may be in store for the future of IE:

"When we started Avalon back in 2001, we wanted to break the distinction of whether something was running inside the browser or outside," Microsoft's [Michael] Wallent said.

"If another company like Google can deliver rich applications on the browser and be cross-platform, that's something to reckon with," [Paul] Colton said. "That gets Microsoft back where they started" with the original browser wars.

"...The only conclusion I can come to is that the browser is not the important platform to them that it once was." [Stephen O'Grady]

An article titled Planning to dump IE? Think again raises the point that even those who have switched to alternative browsers are often forced to keep IE around in order to perform critical functions like updating their operating system.

IE gaps that need to be plugged does a good job of pointing out the major features that Internet Explorer lacks in comparison to its alternatives, such as tabbed browsing, live bookmarks, up-to-date CSS support, and support for PNG technology — i.e., the usual suspects.

Have the browser wars been reignited? gives a run down on the options Web surfers have in terms of the Web browser they use, and finally, Views of IE's competition provides several screenshots side by side of the vastly different "dash boards" of those alternatives.

Anyone interested in Web browsers should take the time to read those articles. Reading them only made me more curious about what the future of Web browsing will look like.

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Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

September 27, 2004 10:41 PM

After finally getting around to watching Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon four years after the fact, I can pretty much sum it up in one word: overrated.

Movies | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

More on the Google Browser

September 27, 2004 3:55 PM

According to an article at CNN Money today, Google has apparently alluded to the fact that it will not be writing its own Web browser from scratch:

...Google would not comment on reports that it was thinking of launching a Web browser to rival Microsoft's Internet Explorer. On Monday, however, a Google spokesman did weigh in, saying that Google was not planning to "reinvent the wheel" when it comes to browsing technology.

If this statement holds true, it still begs the question what browser and/or rendering engine will they use? Some have speculated that one of the Mozilla browsers might be their choice, but this leads me to wonder why Google has hired at least 4 former IE developers as of late.

Only time will tell...

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GrayModern 0.6

September 27, 2004 2:39 PM

Now that Firefox 1.0PR is available and version 1.0 is looming on the horizon, I decided today that it was time I got around to updating the GrayModern theme for Firefox.

GrayModern v0.6 is now available, and contains the following changes (as noted in the MozillaZine Theme forum):

  • » Bumped maxVersion to 1.0
  • » Added support for the Find toolbar
  • » Added support for Feed Autodiscovery
  • » Added support for new Secure Site Notification
  • » Added support for Live Bookmarks
  • » Updated the Download/Extension/Theme Managers
  • » New, smaller preview image

There will doubtless be changes that need to be made for power users and most likely more changes once Firefox 1.0 is released, but previous versions of GrayModern were not compatible with the most current version of Firefox, so this release was important nonetheless. I'm hoping that user feedback will help contribute to a much stronger version of the theme come the 0.7 release.

To download GrayModern 0.6, please visit my Projects page. If you have any comments regarding the theme (including bugs, complaints, suggestions or feature requests), feel free to comment here or to contact me directly.

Browsers | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Consuming

September 25, 2004 7:13 PM

I did a little shopping today and picked up two items that have been on my personal radar for a while – the Legacy Edition release of Jeff Buckley's "Grace" and the widescreen version of the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD. I almost picked up the 3 Month XBox Live Starter Kit as well, but I figured I should wait until I buy the Limited Edition version of Halo 2 in November, so I can maximize my playing time online with that game.

Miscellaneous | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Goodbye MSNBot!

September 24, 2004 8:55 AM

As I've said before, the MSNBot crawler is extremely inefficient when it comes to providing bang for your buck. This month alone, MSN's bot has crawled my site 2,295 times and has subsequently sucked up over 18 MB of my alloted monthly bandwidth (compared to Google's bot's 622 visits and 5 MB of bandwidth). In return, it has brought 6 visitors to my site (1% of the amount Google has)!

I've had it with the MSNBot, so I am finally going to add a robots.txt file to my site to ensure that it never gets past the front door. If inefficiency irks you as much as it does me, feel free to follow along as I provide a step-by-step guide to excluding MSNBot from crawling a website.

My first step was to verify that MSNBot will actually obey my order to go away, especially since I saw evidence that perhaps it wouldn't. Luckily, that evidence seems to be out of date, and the current MSNBot site promises to obey. So far so good.

My next step was to brush up on the rules of a robots.txt file, so that I would correctly block out MSNBot but still allow all other spiders to access my site. The Web Server Administrator's Guide to the Robots Exclusion Protocol provides all the examples anyone could ever need, so learning the rules was extremely easy.

The only thing left to do was to create the actual robots.txt file and upload it to the root directory of my server. I now have my very own robots.txt file and it looks like the following:

User-agent: MSNBot
Disallow: /

Easy as pie, right? And it should keep MSNBot away from my site from now on. Good riddance, MSNBot!

Web Development | Post Comments | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Global Inbox Problems in Thunderbird

September 24, 2004 7:04 AM

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have been dealing with some issues with Thunderbird 0.8. Both of the main issues I'm facing have to do with making the switch to a global inbox for all of my POP accounts. I'll mention the minor annoyance of the two first, since it demands less explanation.

Now that I have made the switch to a global inbox, I am no longer receiving consistent notification when new mail arrives (via the little pop-up notifier that I've come to know and love). What this means is, sometimes I can leave Thunderbird running in the background, and then if I switch to the app I notice that new mail has arrived and I was never notified. I now find myself bringing Thunderbird to the foreground all the time to see if new mail has arrived, having completely lost my trust in its notification ability. This is very unfortunate.

The more annoying problem of the two, though, is the pop-up alert I receive just about every time I start up the application. Now that several of my email accounts are trying to access the local inbox at the same time, I get an error message saying that the folder is being processed and that I need to wait (as if I tried to do anything in the first place). This proves to be a bigger pain in the butt than you might imagine, because at least one of my email accounts gets blocked out from writing to the local inbox, and I don't end up actually seeing the new mail from that account until later when I either get new messages manually or Thunderbird checks the server again.

At first I thought I might have to be the one to log a bug on the issue, since it seems that Thunderbird users are quite inadequate at this (they tend to stick to the forums). However, after finding two posts on the subject, I decided to search Bugzilla, and sure enough, I found what I was looking for.

Now it's just a matter of hoping that the bug gets fixed before Thunderbird 0.9 is released.

Computers | Post Comments | View Comments (2) | Permalink

The Downfall of Seamonkey

September 23, 2004 3:10 PM

A change that was promised by Mozilla over a year ago (and one that I've alluded to here in the past) looks like it might finally be underway. In a recent post at Bart Decrem's blog, he writes the following:

I believe that featuring Mozilla 1.7 on our homepage as we get to the 1.0 milestone for Firefox and Thunderbird is counter-productive, for the simple reason that it is almost impossible to explain to people that Mozilla 1.7 is not the same as Firefox + Thunderbird. Believe me, I've tried explaining this. Just a few days ago, Chris and I spent 20 minutes explaining this to an influential reporter who was quite familiar with Mozilla. He got confused. Even if we were able to succinctly communicate the difference between the suite and Firefox/Thunderbird, it would still be counter-productive to expose users to two competing choices on our homepage. In sum, I believe that we need to continue to maintain and update Seamonkey, but the homepage of mozilla.org is not the best place to promote it.

Removing references to Seamonkey (AKA the Mozilla Suite) from the Mozilla home page is a huge step in the direction of shifting focus from that particular browser (and its complementary pieces) to the lighter/faster Firefox/Thunderbird combo, and a necessary one if only for the reasons Bart pointed out.

It's good to see that the early waves of this change may officially be underway (as if they weren't already with all the press Firefox has been getting lately). I'm sure there are plenty Mozilla Suite devotees out there who will be disappointed in this move, but those of us who clearly see the future of the Gecko rendering engine doubtless understand how important this shift is.

Before I go, there are some other Mozilla-related tidbits I'd like to cover. For one, Spread Firefox currently shows that Firefox downloads are rapidly approaching 2 million. Asa Dotzler pointed out that there are some snazzy new Firefox t-shirts available from the Mozilla Store. And last but not least, Arcanius has ventured down the familiar territory of arguably unnecessary but undeniably exciting Thunderbird upgrades that I am so familiar with. Fortunately for him, he was able to solve his problem – I have a different one I'm wrestling with at the moment, and I'll be posting more about that here when I have a little more time.

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GBrowser

September 20, 2004 10:46 PM

Falling in line with coverage on Slashdot today, speculation about a Google web browser has popped up everywhere.

I don't really know how I feel about the idea of a GBrowser emerging. The Google fan in me thinks it's a really cool idea, but I have the same types of reservations that I've talked about here in the past. If they were to leverage some of the work that's been done on Firefox it could be a huge boost for that browser. However, with the things that Firefox has been doing on its own lately, I'm not totally convinced they need anyone's help.

The web developer in me knows that adding another browser to an already saturated market will most likely only lead to more headaches for developers. Afterall, a quick validity check of any of their major websites (i.e. Google Search, Google News or Google Gmail) will show you just how high web standards are on Google's list.

It will be interesting to see how all of this recent activity – such as the hiring by Google of past Internet Explorer developers – ends up playing out. If I had to choose between the hypothetical Google Instant Messenger and GBrowser, my choice would be the former – hands down.

Browsers | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

The Emmys

September 19, 2004 11:37 PM

For some reason as I've gotten older I've felt the need to watch every single major awards show on television (i.e. The Oscars, The Emmys, and The Grammys). However, the more I watch, the more I wonder why exactly I feel so compelled to continue doing so.

There were only two real highlights at tonight's Emmys in my mind. The first being ABC's repetitive use of Coldplay samples, and then seeing James Gandolfini shake hands with Al Pacino.

The rest of the show was a complete disgrace. As if Gandolfini and Edie Falco getting snubbed wasn't enough, the people running the show seemed to have some sort of penchant for cutting the winners off. In some cases it seemed those who had won an award were given 10 or 15 seconds for their acceptance speeches. The only exception (and the right one, I suppose, if I had to choose only one) was when Al Pacino was allowed to talk without limit.

The kicker, though, came at the very end of the show when The Sopranos took the most coveted award of the night. They cut off James Gandolfini to end the show. This is Tony Soprano we're talking about! They cut him off! What a miserable way to end an already dismal awards show. I can only hope the actual actors and actresses took the whole situation more lightheartedly than I did. I'm still a bit steamed.

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Extracting Unique Values with XSL

September 17, 2004 5:51 PM

Anyone who has used XSL will tell you that its nothing short of powerful. For a quick and dirty example of what can be done with XSL, just take a look at what Mark Pilgrim has done to his Atom feed (if you're interested in how he did it, you can read all about it).

A problem I ran into recently when trying to transform an XML document using XSL was that I only wanted my transformation to grab values that were unique. So for instance, consider the following example:

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
<celebrities>
 <celebrity>
  <name first="Marilyn" last="Monroe" />
  <birthdate value="1926-06-01" />
 </celebrity>
 <celebrity>
  <name first="Damon" last="Wayans" />
  <birthdate value="1960-09-04" />
 </celebrity>
 <celebrity>
  <name first="Marilyn" last="Manson" />
  <birthdate value="1969-01-05" />
 </celebrity>
</celebrities>

Now let's suppose I want to extract all the celebrity first names from that document, but I want each item in the list returned to be unique (i.e. I only want 2 names returned instead of 3). A quick search around the Web revealed a consensus as to what approach to take when tackling this problem – the only problem being that I could not, for the life of me, get it to work.

If you attempt to find a solution to this problem, you'll doubtless run across several references to XPath's preceding-sibling selector. The problem is, most people (myself included) can't get this to work in complex situations – mostly since there are so few samples of the selector's usage available online.

This story has a happy ending, though. While sifting through tons of preceding-sibling content, I happened to stumble upon an entirely different solution involving XSL's key element. This approach, which is similar to hashing all the values, is not only clearly documented online, but it's also relatively easy to follow.

The following XSL transformation will return the list I'm after:

...
<xsl:key name="names" match="name" use="@first"/>
<xsl:template match="/">
<xsl:for-each select="//name[generate-id() = generate-id(key('names',@first)[1])]">
<xsl:value-of select="@first"/>
</xsl:for-each>
</xsl:template>
...

As you can see, I first establish a key by the name of "names," telling it to match the name element using its first attribute. Then when it comes time to select each first attribute in the document, I generate an id for the current element and make sure it is equal to the id of the first first attribute in the defined group of keys. Make sense? Well, it doesn't have to, because it works, and that's more than I can say about the preceding-sibling approach.

If you have any questions about the key-based approach or can lend any insight regarding the preceding-sibling approach, please feel free to let me know.

XML | Post Comments | View Comments (38) | Permalink

Upon Further Review

September 15, 2004 11:26 PM

I decided to break tradition a bit and wait a couple days before downloading the new Thunderbird and Firefox releases that came out this week. Granted, I did install Firefox 1.0PR at work as soon as it came out, but that was just to get an idea of what I'd be in for when upgrading at home.

In hindsight, my initial thoughts on the new version of Firefox were a little hasty. For instance, Firefox has gotten nicer and now asks where I'd like it to put icons on my computer (as does Thunderbird). Also, in saying that there were no real visual changes to the default dashboard I was quite off the mark. The putrid yellow color of the URL bar when visiting a secure site is definitely new, and the status bar items are either new or in a new location (i.e. Feed Autodiscovery, Style Switcher, etc.).

The main application menus don't seem as sluggish as they did at work, but then again my computer here at home is a beast, so I wouldn't anticipate the same kind of latency issues. I'm still baffled by the Read Mail item under the Tools menu that seems to constantly think I have new mail, yet does not take me anywhere (like Thunderbird, perhaps?) when I click on it. Bizarre.

Of all the new features that have sprung up, though, I have to say that I am happiest about Thunderbird's inclusion of a global inbox. This is one preference that has stuck with me since my Outlook Express days, so it's nice to have all of my mail going to one central place now (though still being sent to individual local folders via filters, of course). It always seemed odd that I had to have a separate trash folder, junk mail folder, sent items folder, etc. for each mail account I set up.

Time will tell if upgrading to the Firefox 1.0PR and Thunderbird 0.8 releases was a smart decision, but based on past experience, I'm going to venture a guess that it was the right move. I'll breathe easier, though, when I know I'm running Firefox 1.0 and Thunderbird 1.0.

Browsers | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Pearl Jam News Feed

September 14, 2004 8:44 PM

Last month I suggested to the guys who run The Sky I Scrape, my favorite Pearl Jam site, that they add either an RSS or Atom feed to their site so people like me who want to get the latest Pearl Jam news as soon as possible can. About five weeks later, they've announced that they now have a feed. Guess who's already subscribed?

Music | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Be Careful When Preaching Web Standards

September 13, 2004 10:13 PM

As mentioned before, I am a big fan of Doug Bowman's web design work at Stopdesign.

Today, Doug announced that he has introduced a nifty stylesheet switching approach that allows his visitors to tweak Stopdesign to their liking so that everyone can have their way. This is great to see, and is an excellent example of how separating style from structure can provide boundless opportunity in design.

However, while reading through some of the related comments over at his site, I stumbled upon the following:

This is one of the best reasons for standards-based designs. Try doing this with tables and suffer!

Gabriel Mihalache, the commenter in question, is unfortunately very off-base with his comment.

While it is true that those who choose to design with tables go against what is now considered common standards-based design, it is downright incorrect to say that Doug could not have achieved the feat he did had he used a table-based design. Doug's achievement can be attributed solely to the complete (and completely creative) use of style/structure separation. Whether or not his stylesheets and the rules therein apply to divs or tables is completely irrelevant.

One thing we must be careful of when preaching web standards is that we don't end up sounding like all those anti-Microsoft folks out there. Just because a site utilizes tables for its structure does not mean it can't meet all the requirements of a standard and valid web document. Tables are acceptable entities in XHTML and HTML.

Anyone who truly understands the the purpose of web standards and knows the real potential of separating style from content will easily see the weakness(es) in Gabriel's conjecture.

Web Design | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

What Watching the News Does to My Mom

September 13, 2004 9:09 PM

Looks like mom's been watching the news again:

DO NOT DOWNLOAD Music!!! They will now sue employers and workers!

Next she'll be warning me not to send money to any princes in Libya.

Blathery | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Firefox 0.10RC Notes

September 13, 2004 3:45 PM

I decided to download Firefox 0.10RC today after reading a recent post on Asa Dotzler's blog soliciting testers and feedback. My overall impression of the changes since 0.9 is that not much has changed. However, using the application for only about a half hour was enough to unturn some bugs and annoyances. See my list of notes below:

  • » Why isn't the installation dialog centered?
  • » No options regarding where to (or not to) install shortcuts
  • » Clicking Read Mail (2 new) under Tools menu item takes me to Outlook (where there are no new messages?)
  • » Find As You Type toolbar and status bar items are very handy and well-implemented
  • » Popup notification bar is easy to turn off (which is important to me, since I just don't care about popups)
  • » No real visual changes to the dashboard in the default theme, other than a shinier Close Tab icon
  • » Maybe it's just me, but menus (View, Go, Bookmarks, etc.) seem to render slower
  • » Help, Promote Firefox goes to spreadfirefox.com, which looks to be a blank page
  • » Going to Bookmarks Manager and clicking on New Bookmark and then Cancel gives a "bonk" noise like I did something wrong (seems to happen with other items too) and then creates a new item anyway (they better fix this one)
  • » Viewing an actual RSS feed, I am given no option to add it as a Live Bookmark
  • » Live Bookmark UI is completely buried – had to look in the Bookmark Manager to find any trace of it (in that dialog's File menu)
  • » Why aren't bookmarks organized alphabetically (with folders always above individual bookmarks) by default? The current organization (if you can call it that) is a mess and has been as long as I can remember

Looks like I'll need to write up a bug for the "bonk and ignore" issue has already been reported. I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope that things improve before the final release in October.

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Another Good Sunday

September 13, 2004 12:21 AM

This particular Sunday was better than some and perhaps not as good as others. Nevertheless, it was certainly blog-worthy.

My morning started off with an impressive Seahawks victory over the Saints. I was very impressed with Hasselbeck, Alexander (pretty much a given), Jackson and the entire defense, even though having most of them on my fantasy teams didn't really do much for me. I'm more than willing to give up some dough in fantasy losses, though, in exchange for a 13-3 (or better) Seahawks season. We'll see what happens.

I finished off the day with an intense and satisfying season-ending episode of Six Feet Under, which at its highest moment (for me anyway) had Nate proposing to Brenda and saying he wants to have a baby with her. It's about time. Now, if HBO decides to play they're usual games, I'll only have to wait until 2009 to see what comes of it ;)

Yes, all in all, it was another good Sunday.

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

September 11th

September 11, 2004 3:36 AM

American Flag

Miscellaneous | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Efficiency

September 10, 2004 10:31 PM

According to my website statistics, the MSNBot spider has indexed my site 789 times so far this month, whereas GoogleBot has only done so 82 times. So far, I have received 222 hits from the Google search engine this month, and only 5 from MSN. How's that for efficiency (or lack thereof)?

And while we're on the subject of efficiency, this fine specimen of an automobile cruised past me during my evening commute home on 520 tonight:

Lamborghini Gallardo

So if Google's the Gallardo, I guess that makes MSN the Ghetto Flyer.

Cars | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Pearl Jam and Gmail

September 10, 2004 3:53 PM

I tried like a MoFo to get Pearl Jam tickets today, to no avail. This is their second time playing at the Showbox in the last few years, and I'm going to miss it yet again. Details were very hush hush, so I was hoping maybe I'd luck out and get through to TicketsWest, but no. All I got was a busy signal or "all circuits are down." I tried for 10 minutes, but am guessing the show was sold out in under 5. I'm bummed out about it. Especially after seeing quite a few of them up on eBay already. If only Gmail invites held as much prestige as they once did...maybe I'd be able to talk someone into selling them at face value with that added incentive ;)

Speaking of Gmail, I noticed today that I am now using 10 MB of space, five times that which Hotmail allows me, and it's only 1% of the space Gmail allows. Can't complain about that! At this rate, it looks like I have about 50 years before I run out of space.

Music | Post Comments | View Comments (3) | Permalink

Google Instant Messenger

September 08, 2004 6:28 PM

There has been quite a bit of talk around the blogosphere lately concerning the potential for Google to develop its own instant messaging client. After reading Robert Scoble's blog today, I've noticed that talk has now extended beyond the blogosphere.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a Google fan. But then again, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who isn't these days. That, in some sense, is why the idea of a Google-branded instant messaging client is so appealing to so many people. People have come to trust Google, and as more and more people jump on the Gmail train, instant messaging seems like the next logical step. From a business standpoint, it is logical for Google because they begin building an affinity network among their users that elevates them to the point of competing directly with AOL, MSN and Yahoo.

First let me say that I would love to see Google enter the instant messaging market. However, the point I want to make here today (if I make one at all) is that I have one major fear when it comes to Google. I am afraid that they are not cut out to be a software company.

Google became what it is today by staying out of the way while at the same time providing an invaluable service. They have been successful developing simple (in UI terms, of course) applications that perform powerful tasks – their web search engine being the most obvious example. However, the only software I have seen come out of Google is their recently released Gmail Notifier. And as you know, I was unimpressed.

While the look of the Gmail Notifier is pretty snazzy (think fade-in alert pop-ups in Outlook 2003), it just didn't feel stable to me. Keep in mind that this is an application that I really wanted to like. If that particular application is any indication of what we have to look forward to in a Google IM client, then I have a feeling the client will (or would, since this is all speculation anyway) take longer to catch on that it should.

Nevertheless, the mere thought of having an alternative to MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Instant Messenger that has the potential to be open source, standardized and decentralized has me on the edge of my seat and wishing for the best.

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Quarterback Problems

September 05, 2004 7:23 PM

My brother was nice enough to offer me a ticket to the Washington Huskies football game today. It's just a shame the Husky quarterbacks weren't nice enough to offer a win. The rest of the team sure tried – in fact, I'd say that the Husky defense, Kenny James, Zach Tuiasosopo and Charles Frederick all played at the top of their game. It was the supposed "team leaders" that let us down. Collectively, Casey Paus and Isaiah Stanback played some of the worst football I've seen in a while. It's going to be a shame to see the Husky football season go down the toilet bowl just because there isn't someone at the QB position who knows how to lead a team.

Aside from the embarrassing quarterback situation, though, the game was fun to watch. It was also nice to have my brother come up this way, considering that most of the time it's me making the trip down I-5.

Sports | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Practicing What I Preach

September 04, 2004 5:27 PM

Part of the changes I promised to make to my blog was to reevaluate the way I tackle the box model handling of major browsers like Internet Explorer and Firefox. That change has finally taken place. Rather than mixing a CSS3 property that isn't widely implemented yet with another property that only applies to Gecko browsers, like I used to:

box-sizing: border-box;
-moz-box-sizing: border-box;

I now use a techique that I recently preached about on this site and that Doug Bowman of Stopdesign has touched upon more recently.

So what do I get out of that? Well now the link in my sidebar reads Valid CSS instead of "Semi-Valid CSS." And that just makes me feel good ;)

Web Design | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

View Stylesheet Instead of View Source

September 03, 2004 9:23 AM

There was a whole lot of hooplah lately about the idea of Firefox developers removing the Page Source option from Firefox's View menu. Since then, things have calmed down a bit, and people everywhere seem to be breathing a collective sigh of relief.

I got to thinking about the whole thing this morning, and came to the conclusion that View Source (excuse the terminology, but it has stuck with me since my Internet Explorer days) isn't as useful as it once was. The prevailing argument for including the View Source option in a web browser is so that aspiring web developers can look at websites they like, and learn, from the source, how to design and develop websites on their own.

Jumping out of the last millennium and into this one, though, it becomes quite apparent that you can't always (in the best cases of web design, which are the ones most likely to have their source viewed) count on the main HTML source to tell you a whole lot about how a page was designed. Nowadays, as more and more major (and minor) websites are conforming to web standards, the structure of the page becomes more irrelevant, and the stylesheet(s) used become increasingly more important.

For instance, go ahead and view the source of my blog. If you use any of the same techniques I used in your own page, you'll get a pretty ugly web page that looks like it's straight out of 1995. However, if you ignore my actual XHTML source and focus more on one of my stylesheets, you can learn a heck of a lot more about what actually went in to designing my page. And the same thing goes for sites like Stopdesign and mezzoblue (i.e. sites you actually would, or at least should, be interested in learning from).

So what I'm proposing here is simple. Browsers should allow curious website visitors the option to View Stylesheet either in addition to or in place of View Source. This is easier said than implemented, of course, because sites can have several stylesheets whereas they only have one finite chunk of source code. However, UA developers have tackled much harder problems, so I don't see this hurdle as a very limiting one.

Browsers | Post Comments | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Thunderbird and Norton AntiVirus: Update

September 03, 2004 6:04 AM

This is a quick follow-up to my original post on the subject.

I noticed via The Rumbling Edge this morning that there is an ongoing bug in Bugzilla. Hopefully it will be resolved soon (before the 1.0 release, perhaps?) so Thunderbird users can stop worrying about losing their entire inbox out of the blue.

Computers | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Aggressive Stylesheet Caching in Firefox

September 02, 2004 9:24 AM

When I loaded up my website today on a different computer than the one I posted from last night, I noticed that the new CSS rule I defined for the "view all" link in the sidebar had not been respected by my browser. Because I had seen this happen numerous times before with Firefox, I knew the solution. I clicked the reload button and all was well.

Just because I know the solution, though, doesn't make the problem any less annoying. It is my understanding that whenever a web page is loaded by a browser, its last modified timestamp is checked against the timestamp of the file cached on disk (if any). If it exists on disk and has not changed, it is loaded from the cache to speed up retrieval time. If the file on the server is newer than the one in cache, it will retrieve the new file.

Why this doesn't seem to hold true for CSS files is beyond me. I've gotten pretty used to web designers warning their visitors that they'd better reload the page if they want to see a new stylesheet in action. It seems to me like Firefox (and perhaps other browsers?) is being too aggressive about caching CSS files. I did a quick search on Bugzilla, though, and it looks like maybe I'm the only one who feels that way.

Browsers | Post Comments | View Comments (15) | Permalink

Almost There

September 01, 2004 10:15 PM

As promised, I've made quite a few cosmetic changes to my blog – the most noticeable of those being the addition of what I call B-Sides. From now on, you'll always see the most recent B-Sides, which are basically quick links to interesting items from around the Web, in the sidebar. You'll also see, in some cases, who gets credit for helping me find the item, as well as a link to the full listing of all B-Sides since their inception (i.e. tonight).

Also as promised, the guestbook has been removed completely. I even decided to prune the photography and poetry pages since they hardly ever change and really aren't that noteworthy. I may put together a separate site for my poetry sometime in the future. In addition, I removed all the button links in favor of textual links that provide the same functionality without all the inconsistency in design (I'm a stickler for that sort of thing).

Under the hood, I've gone through and verified the validity of my XHTML on all major pages of the site (I was a bit surprised to see how many were invalid).

You might also have noticed that there is now an additional option under Archives for viewing a percentage of my posts by popularity. That's a pretty cool feature, even if only for my own interests.

All that is left for me to do, really, is work on my box model handling a bit to see if I can't change that "Semi-Valid CSS" link to read "Valid CSS" instead. I have a few other things I'm thinking about too, but I won't spill those beans just yet.

If you have any comments on the way I'm doing things, how I could do them better, why you don't care, etc., please by all means leave a comment or drop me an email.

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