January 2004 Archives

You think you have a hard time debugging software? Try doing it from a hundred million miles away.

Jury selection in the Martha Stewart trial.

Here, for your information and amusement, is how I imagine jury selection went:

Continue reading “Martha Stewart Serving”…

As seen on Zeldman: CSS PencilsChristopher Hester has managed to recreate an image using CSS. The demo is really remarkable. I can’t imagine how long this must have taken to do — let’s hope Chris remembers to wear sunglasses on his first trip out-of-doors.

This is not what CSS was intended to do. That’s what makes it so beautiful.

While researching what “khaki” really means in terms of color, I came across the RGB Color Charts at Liverpool John Moores University. Useful for those of us who look at Almond, Beige, and Khaki, and just see brown.

Oh, and kindly disregard the instructions they give you at the top of the page for using the <font> tag, as well as their warnings about monitors that display 16 colors or less. Some people are still partying like it’s 1999.

Our local Wal-Mart just installed self-checkout lanes. I know these have been around for a while (I used one in Nashville several years ago), but I hadn’t seen any in Oklahoma until another Wal-Mart, slightly farther away, installed them just before Christmas. I’ve been using whatever excuse I could to go to the self-checkout store, but now I don’t have to anymore.

I love self-checkout. It’s faster for me, and less wasteful: I can fit about twice as much in each bag as their checkers do.

The way they’ve implemented this system has it’s good and bad points, and I’d like to explore that briefly.

Continue reading “Keep Moving”…


You just upgraded your web site to a new back-end system. The old system used URLs like this:

Your new system, however, creates “friendly” URLs, like so:

Now, for the entire time you used the old system, Google was your friend. Your URLs may have been unfriendly, but they weren’t bad enough to deter Google. All those old links to your products are still out there, and you need some way to point them to their new locations.

Continue reading “Using mod_rewrite for Backward Compatibility”…

Kodak abandoning film cameras

Wow. It’s pretty significant for Kodak to do this. Expect more companies to follow suit.

I wonder, though — aren’t most professional photographers still using film? Is Kodak abandoning them, or does Kodak not make any high-end film cameras? is very similar to Google News. I can’t say yet which I like better, but I do like the local news page Topix creates.

The completely rebuilt and redesigned Crafty Goat has finally launched. We are very happy with how it turned out.

A few details about the new site:

Continue reading “Crafty Goat Relaunch”…

From Web Page Design for Designers: Vertical Centering with CSS

The article is a year old, but this keeps coming up in web design discussions, so it seemed worth mentioning.

If your site statistics have ever shown a single image getting an abnormally high number of hits, you’ve probably been “hotlinked.” This is where someone points to your image from another site. The image appears on their page, but the bandwidth costs go to you.

Now, I don’t generally care if someone wants to use one of my images for whatever, but at least have the decency to copy it to your own server.

Thankfully, there is this tutorial which explains how to use Apache’s Rewrite Engine to stop hotlinking. This is going to become a standard feature on our web sites.

For anyone wanting to track down visitors to their site, there is now the IP Address Locator. I was impressed that it knew I was in Yukon, OK.

Over at Maccessibility, there is a wonderful tutorial on relative and absolute positioning with CSS. It makes a very complicated subject easy to understand.

A new issue of ala is out, with an interesting article on Elastic Design.

I had never thought before about using ems, a size unit based on the size of text, for specifying page layout. This is something I definitely want to experiment with.

Apple introduced their new iPod mini. It’s smaller, both in size and capacity, comes in a variety of colors, and sells for… $249.

C’mon Apple. That’s only 50 bucks less than a 15GB iPod. If they couldn’t get the price to less than $200, they shouldn’t have brought it to market yet.

I’m cleaning out my virtual refrigerator before things start to stink:

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the first text post on News Goat. I had other blogs before this, on LiveJournal and Slashdot, but News Goat was different because I built it entirely from scratch. Scratch is hard to work with, though, so I eventually switched to Movable Type. And the rest, as they say, isn’t very interesting.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for almost three years now. I’m still just a beginner, but I enjoy it, and I’ve received a few comments from people who have read News Goat and learned something from what I wrote.

Every so often I promise I’m going to start writing more. Those promises are usually followed by long stretches of silence. I’m not making any promises today, but I do hope to get myself into more of a pattern, so that writing becomes an everyday thing, not an event. If I can do that, maybe I can stay with this another year or so.

Fontifier takes a sample of your handwriting and converts it into a True Type font. It’s pretty easy to do, and the results are good. I’m using my own handwriting to write this post (thanks to Zempt, which I’m starting to like). It’s fun and free, so why not?

States Outlaw Digital Taping in Cinemas

The idea behind this is pretty simple: The MPAA and the RIAA want to stop copyright infringement by pushing through legislation to make anything they associate with copyright infringement illegal.

The problem with this is copyright infringement is already illegal, there’s no reason to make it “extra” illegal. The battle over copyrights is starting to look more and more like the war on drugs, and we see how well that’s going. Have your eye on a new cell phone that takes video clips? Better buy it now — it may be illegal next year.

I understand the need to protect copyrights, but copyrights do not supersede all other rights. I would not return to a movie theater that illegally searched me before allowing me inside. Ultimately, people are going to decide that both movies and music aren’t worth the trouble.

And that’s going to hurt both industries more than camcorders or Napster ever did.

Wil is trying to raise some publicity for a very generous act performed by a group of gamers. The readers of Penny Arcade donated over $200,000 worth of toys and games, and over $27,000 in cash to the Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Now, I’m not a fan of Penny Arcade. I want to be, badly, because I hear over and over how funny it is. Then I go read it. It’s not funny. I’ve tried over and over again in the hope that it will be funny, but it never is. Maybe if I were into video games, that would make it funny.

Despite that, I think it’s great what they did, not just for the children’s hospital, but for the reputation of gamers.

7-year-old gets stuck in stuffed animal game machine

This story just tickles me, probably because I used to play these machines pretty religiously. In high school and college, that was my favorite game at the arcade. Not for the prizes — sometimes you’d get a Looney Tunes character, but most of the stuffed animals were just lame — but for the skill required to win. You have to have an eye for it. You have to identify a good target — something that is loose, where you can get the claw around its center-of-gravity. Then, as you line up the claw, you have to check it from several angles to be sure you have the claw in the right place. And, don’t release the claw too early — if it’s swinging too much, it won’t land right.

Remember the crane game scene in Toy Story? If you’ve never played a crane, let me tell you, that scene was highly inaccurate. Oh, sure, the toys inside really do worship the crane as if it were a God, but did you notice the grip that thing had? No claw has that kind of grip.

Like I said, I played those games a lot.

Needless to say, if I had been there, the kid wouldn’t have been stuck for an hour…


Not unlike the Distributed Library Project I linked to before. I’m still looking for a social network application in which I’m not the only member within 50 miles of my location. :-)

I suppose for many people, New Year’s is just an excuse to party. To me, it’s a reminder that the world does, in fact, have a reset button. Each January 1, everything starts over — a clean slate with new possibilities. Sure, you can still see the dusty chalk marks of the past year, but the mere fact that you get another year means new hope.

Last year had its ups and downs. Sometimes it felt like someone was scratching their fingernails down my slate. But, the good times were more frequent than the bad, and that’s all I ask from life. I also did something I’m rather proud of…

Continue reading “Happy New Year!”…