A few articles I’ve found interesting, on this dull Monday morning, collected by FeedDemon:

Joe Average User Is In Trouble
Nice opinion piece on security vs. the average computer user.
Friday Feast #63: Information Architecture, Standards, Best Practices
Takes a look at a new interview with Jeffrey Zeldman, A List Apart’s new site design, and user-friendly approaches to website information architecture.
Sliding Doors of CSS
Great little article on a technique that could make CSS driven pages even more attractive

After a week and a half of waiting, my new Transformers Binaltech Smokescreen arrived in the post today 😀

In case you’re wondering what that is, it’s a 1:24 scale series of Transformers that are replicas of real life cars – just like the originals. Smokescreen, for example, is a perfect replica of Tommi Makinens’ WRC Subaru Impreza, right down to the sponsors logos.

The Binaltech line also features such niceties as die-cast parts and masses of articulation.

I’ll post some photos once the gallery is up and running. This really is one cool toy!

A few days late with this one, but hey-ho…

The Mozilla Foundation released new milestones of three of its open source applications.

The Mozilla Suite – which contains an advanced, fast and robust web browser, a simple WYSIWYG HTML tool and a secure mail client is now up to version 1.5.

Thunderbird, is a development of the mail client that comes with the Mozilla Suite. It contains many advanced features, such as intuitive anti-spam controls and is far more secure against viruses, worms and other such risks than Outlook Express. Thunderbird has now reached version 0.3.

Firebird, is a development of the web browser found in the Mzilla suite. It is fast, robust and contains many highly useful and advanced features such as find-as-you-type (find links and text on a page, simply by typing. No fiddling with menu items), tabbed browsing and extensibility in the form of extensions. Firebird also offers a high degree of standards compliance.

I like Mozilla stuff. Firebird is my default browser and Thunderbird is my mail client. Both are highly capable (and, I reckon, far better) alternatives to Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Go download now, you won’t regret it!

The RIAA is sueing a 12 year old girl, for “massive copyright infringements through file-swapping”. Under legislation, this could mean her paying “damages” of upto $150,000 per song.

Just when you thought they could go now lower, they pull this one… I hope they get seriously nailed to the wall for it. Surely it can’t be long now before they get investigated by the feds, for what they’re doing?

Either that, or people should wake up and Boycott the RIAA.

…and my home-rolled Linux build is still building…

Compiled the kernel OK (I think), now I just gotta do the graphical UI stuff. I think I may have borked this bit :S

Looks like it’s gonna be another nigth with the machine running while I try to get to sleep over the noise the fan makes…

Bah.

Italian hackers are trying to hack into my works’ servers…
Apparently they’ve been at it for a week now (I guess that’s a good sign?). Unfortunately, all their scanning and probing, etc, means that our bandwidth for getting in/out on the net is virtually non-existant.

Bastards. :S

We’ve notified our ISP, but apparently there’s very little that can be done… Which sucks ass.

Can someone explain to me, what the point in it all is? At most, they’re gonna get a few project reports. Nothing that can make them money. Nothing that will make them infamous or l33t.

Bah. Probably nothing more than a bunch of fscking script-kiddies…

What’s up wit’ dat? 🙂

Another thing that I forgot to mention, that I actually meant to post last night (but w.bloggar was playing up on my desktop) – found a kickass program for doing CG (Computer Generated) artwork.

OpenCanvas (http://www.portalgraphics.net) combines some really wonderful natural media type brushes, with some basic photoshop functionality (layers, et al). This may not sound very different to, Painter, for example… well that’s cos it isn’t. However, I found Painter quite hard to get to grips with and hard to understand. Plus, it costs a bomb. OpenCanvas may not have as many options or features, but it’s simple, fast (takes up next to no space), intuitive and above all, it’s cheap. If you hunt around, you can still find the v1.1 release, which is free. Current official version is 2.24e. Interesting features include network co-operative work (multiple people can work on a piece at the same time) and the ability to record your progress for later playback. Handy for creating tutorails, etc.

So if you like CGing and were looking for a tool to add that natural look that you were after, give it a try 🙂

(I sound like a salesman…)

A few days ago, version 0.2 of Mozilla Thunderbird (http://www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird/) was released to the public.

It’s miles faster, takes up less space (physical + RAM) and has a few new features and visual tweaks.

I use it and I highly recommend it! The junk mail filters alone make it miles beyond any other mail software I’ve used!

House move went a-ok, I am happy to report.

Got my ADSL activated on Thursday. Took a bit of configuring, but I got the wireless bit working as sweet as, as they say. Surfing the net from a comfy seat in the living room is so much better than at a hard desk…

The only problem is that I’m stuck to find things to download! All this bandwidth and nothing to take it up!

BTW, thanks to Onelotus Creative for the return link. Much appreciated 🙂

Other links for today:

Shit like this pisses me off. For some reason, a minority of people on the Internet (and in real life too) feel the need to try and destroy the work of other people for one reason or another. Some because they’re bored, some because they’re actually malicious, some just to seek attention or see people’s reactions. I cannot understand why though.

Everyday, good people take time out of their day to provide – or help provide – something useful for others. They take time out from hobby or leisure time. They take time out that they could spend with families or loved ones. Usually for no reward other than the knowledge that they’ve given something that others need or find useful. All to have some scum-sucking maggot destroy it without a thought to the consequences.

It’s surely heart-breaking to endure and I find it heart breaking to watch. Especially when it’s something that I’ve been a part of.

I’ve been involved in the e107 community almost since it started. I’ve watched it grow from little more than a news publishing system, to a full-grown content management system. I’ve taken time to write plugins for it, provide feedback on each release, suggested ideas for development, made themes for it… So have countless others. I’m sure each and every one of us who has contributed to e107 must feel as though the people who have been causing problems have stuck two fingers up at all our work. However, I don’t think any feeling we have about the subject could come close to what Jalist – the father of e107 – could be feeling.

As his post says, he gets no material reward for all his efforts. Until recently, he has written pretty much everything in the core of e107 on his own. He has taken time away from his children to provide a tool for others. All the while, he has never wanted to compete with anyone and has pointed people to other systems if he feels they will benefit from them more than his own system. Yet someone has still taken all that. All the hard work, the time given, the help proved… and done the virtual equivalent of wiping their arse with it.

Well I hope it blocks their toilet.

Just for the sake of it, I’ve started work on a semantically correct, CSS/XHTML strict compliant forum script.

At the moment, it’s going to be as simple as possible, so I can get the basics done properly.

The main idea is to structure it using unordered lists. In my head, this is the correct way that a discussion list should be structured… Not the nested tables that are normally used.
Initially, it’ll be a threaded discussion style forum, but it shouldn’t be too hard to code it so it can be that or the other way of laying it out (I forget what that method is called).

It’ll probably end up using PHP/MySQL as the backend, mainly because I know enough of these two to code it quickly.
Maybe one day, I’ll progress it to PHP/XML.

Should hopefully have a few test pages up in the next few days…

Firebird, the excellent browser that is a spin off of the Mozilla Project has had a new milestone release.

The latest milestone supposedly fixes a number of nasty bugs from the 0.6 release.

Can’t say I’ve seen any differences, in the several hours I’ve been testing – other than a seemingly larger memory footprint – but that also means I’ve not seen any new bugs appear.

Hopefully this browser will go from strength to strength and provide a challenge to the out-of-date Internet Explorer…

[Editor’s note – the links below no longer work, despite the best efforts of the Wayback Machine]

This article, over at Builder.com, a follow up to some other CSS articles, poses the question: “Should Web developers implement CSS now or wait for browser consistency?”

It’s an OK article, intended to expose the divisions between web developers over CSS. Nothing too brilliant though.

However, the best part has to be the discussion thread at the end of the article… Which includes one guy who is absolutely set that CSS is nothing more than meaningless hype (he compares it to XML…) and that those that advocate the use of CSS-P over tables are religious fanatics who don’t really know what they’re talking about, don’t work in the real world and are just making up/exaggerating the benefits. He even wrote a “Rebuttal of all the Supposed CSS Benefits”, that I find just hilarious.

However, one thing his ramblings do highlight, is the need for better explanations, with real world proof (proper examples, not conjecture), as to why developers should migrate their presentation code to CSS.

Away from the stressful bit of the day…

My order from Performance-PC’s arrived today (the custom PSU, plus some fan grills, a custom floppy drive and new CPU/gfx card coolers). Everything arrived in top notch condition. The PSU was a breeze to install, as was the CPU cooler. The fan grills took a bit longer than they should have, due to them being a bit bigger than normal 80mm grills. The two on the front intake fans actually overlap each other. Ah well. Didn’t fit the new gfx cooler, cos a) I couldn’t be arsed and b) I think it might be better to mount it on the Northbridge chip anyway. Will need to get some thermal epoxy for that.

The PSU is fantastic. The braiding on the cables is top quality. Everything now looks a bit neater. Some cabling still needs tidying up, but that’s mainly minor stuff. As wierd as it may sound, all the LEDs in the case seem a bit brighter since installing the new PSU… could be just my imagination though!

The CPU cooler (a Coolermaster X-Dream) is also great. Spinning the fan at full power makes it a better cooler than my Thermalright SLK-800 (the king of heatsinks) and 80mm fan combo. Looks a lot better as well, even with the stock fan grill (which I’ve swapped for one of my new ones). Unfortunately, it’s loud.

The floppy drive has a black, anodised aluminium face plate, so it matches the finish of my case. Other than that, it’s a standard floppy – nothing exciting. It’s only there for the times when I need to flash the BIOS, personally, I’d consign all FDD’s to the scrapheap, if it wasn’t for their amazing ability to get you out’ve trouble when your machine fails… I do need to get a 3mm bl00 LED for it though. I will not tolerate non-bl00ness in my case!

All this new stuff means that there are only a few bits and bobs I need to do, before my PC is finished.

  • match the CD drive to my case
  • sort the lighting
  • tidy the wires at the bottom of my case (the front panel connector stuff and the LCD wire)
  • Replace the top mounted “blow-hole” fan, to match the other case fans

and that’s pretty much it! All the hard work will be done and I’ll have one sexhay PC

Got a Net MD? Sick and tired of OpenMG Jukebox? I know I am – it sucks… half my tracks don’t convert properly, so are just however many minutes of silence. Plus, it doesn’t properly support any form of MP3 and has that annoying “Check-In/Out” feature.

Anyway, I was searching around for an alternative method to OpenMG and stumbled across this little gem. You’ll need Nero Burning Rom + the Imagedrive function and Sony Simple Burner (should come with your Net MD). To enjoy a simple method of transferring MP3s or other music files onto your Net MD, follow these steps…

  1. Open Nero, select Audio CD from the presets and drag all the MP3’s you want into it. Nero is far less picky about formats and sample rates. I found this method foolproof.
  2. Save or ‘Burn’ your CD to your hard drive (not your burner). Nero will give you a default filename of ‘image.nrg’
  3. Use Nero’s Imagedrive (bundled with Nero) to mount the .nrg (CD-image) you just created. Lets say Drive ‘F’ for this example.
  4. Select your ‘virtual F’ CD drive in Simple Burner and burn it to Minidisc. When you are done, trash the large .nrg file sitting on your desktop.

Advantages of this Method:

  • You are using reliable software.
  • Check-in/check-out is avoided.
  • Unlike OpenMG, files aren’t left all over your hard drive.
  • You can delete and re-arrange the downloaded tracks on your MD without having to resort to connecting it back to your PC.
  • It is faster and doesn’t thrash your hard drive.

There you go… you should now be on the way to Net MD bliss…

My GeForce 4 Ti 4800 also arrived today. Unreal Tournament never looked so good! 1280*1024, with all detail levels set to highest… and it never once dropped below 38fps during an intense 12 bot deathmatch.

On the down-side, adding it to my case has pushed the average ambient temperature up 3-5 degrees, to about 35 degrees celcius…

Heard the new Metallica single, “St Anger”, last night. Loads of people had told me that it was crap, prior to me hearing, but I actually quite like it. It’s different, for Metallica.

The riff reminds me of “Blind” by Korn, which is probably where some are drawing the nu-metal comparison from. Plus the fact that there’s no solo…

It’s not as good as their “old stuff”, but it was never going to be. I think people’s expectations were that when they (Metallica) said they were going back to their roots, they were going to write Master of Pupperts part 2 or something… Sorry, it was never going to happen.

I learned a while back not to have any preconceived expectations about what Metallica will do next… Over their 20 year career, they have strived to always stay on top, to always change it up and stay fresh. Yet people always seem to expect – almost demand – a generic thrash album from them. Why? Do you want a band that “plays it safe”, musically? Do you want to listen to the same things regurgitated over several albums? Or do you want some variety in a bands discography? Don’t you want some contrast? Something that says “this band aren’t afraid to take risks”?

Personally, whatever the new album/its musical direction sounds like, I’d rather have that over a cash-in on former glories in a rehash of Kill ‘Em All or something similar…

Sticking with the music theme, I’ll turn my attention to Evanesence. I dunno what to make of this band. When I first heard their single “Bring Me to Life”, I wasn’t too sure about it. “Sure, the girl’s got a good voice and it’s quite catchy”, I thought to myself, “but the double-vocals with the guy sound a little too much like bog-standard nu-metal pap…”

Thankfully, it turns out that the guy that sings on that single, is only a guest vocalist (he’s from a band called “12 Stone” or something like that). I’ll also admit that the single’s been growing on me quite a lot since I first heard it. As a result, I checked out a couple of other songs (“Lies” and “My Immortal” ) and I was quite impressed. Neither song sounded anything like the others and showed some promise.

There’s still something about them that makes me a little unsure though… I may buy the album anyway, just to ease my curiosity, if nothing else. If it’s good then that’s a bonus, I guess. I can always take it back if it sucks…

I’m in mourning. My DVD player decided to blow itself up last night 🙁 . One minute, my girlfriend is watching “Miss Congeniality”, the next minute there’s a few funny noises, some popping, a bang and a burning smell. At first I thought it was the speaker system – I’d thought there was something wrong with them for months now and I was still recieving a picture, but upon noticing the garbage that the players LCD was spewing out and that the burnt smell was coming from the player, I had to conclude that something had blown inside the player unit itself. So it was a case of power off and unplug, before anything caught fire.

It was less than 6 months old.

I suppose it’s possibly a case of “you get what you pay for”. It was a cheapo Bush brand player, bought as bundle with the speakers, for £99 just after Christmas. Still, you would expect it to last more than 5 and three quarter months…

Personally, I blame the crap film for all this trouble 😉

So why am I not tearing down the walls of the Curry’s store that I bought it from? Well, cos quite frankly they suck at customer care. All the major high-street electronics retailers do. I would take the entire system – player + speakers – back to them (fully repackaged, as per their requirements), along with the reciept and warranty slips. I’d then explain several times what happenerd. After a few attempts to explain what happened, I’d either be told that:
a) it’s not eligable to be repaired;
-or-
b) it is eligable, but it might cost a fair bit
After that (if they take it), it’ll take a number of weeks – possibly months – to get returned to me. Most likely, it’ll fail again within 5 months.

For a £99 system, the hassle just isn’t worth it, IMO. If the customer care was decent, I might consider it… but I know it’s not. I’ve heard too many horror stories (here’s a now famous example…), and have had a few iffy experiences with high street electronics retailers myself. Instead, I’ll mutter under my breath, grumble a bit, then buy a decent player to replace the dead one. I’ve got my eye on one of these, which I’ve been told are the dogs wotsits.

Ah, modern technology… can’t live with it, can’t live without it…

A piece of internet history has been discovered – the first known use of a smiley (emoticon) has been found.

taken from The Register:

The original smiley, or emoticon, invented in 1982 by Scott Fahlman but subsequently lost, has been retrieved through the efforts of Microsoft researcher Mike Jones and facilities staff at Carnegie Mellon University. And isn’t it a blessing to find Microsoft Research staff keeping themselves profitably occupied like this, when they could be posing a threat to world freedom instead?

Jones describes the process of unearthing the smiley here. Fahlman hadn’t kept a copy of his original post, and had assumed it had been lost. But he was able to help narrow down the likely dates, and extensive CMU trawls through old backup tapes finally nailed the posting down to 19th September 1982, so we’re just in time for the 20th anniversary next Thursday.. It has now been restored in all its glory here, and the full thread from whence it came can be viewed here.

Note that Fahlman’s post didn’t come out of the blue – the CMU people had been working hard on a mechanism for signifying jokes for some time, and among the rejected proposals were & and #. Nor did 🙂 win immediate and universal acceptance. On the 20th a poster identified only as Not Sharon Burks mounted a fight-back on behalf of the “gandalf vax” and its favoured emoticon. But ultimately, Fahlman triumphed, and the research team could go back to discussing Star Trek.

use the link below to view the first ever use of a smiley http://research.microsoft.com/~mbj/Smiley/Smiley.html