An Unfinished Symphony

It's about the internet and stuff.

It’s been a while …

It’s been a very long while since I posted on here, but it hasn’t all been due to my procrastination (although that’s responsible too). The last few months have been very busy with work, both Sarah and I have been rushed off our feet with various projects some of which have gone live, others are having tweaks here and there before going live, with the rest at various stages of development.

It hasn’t been all work though, we managed to fit a short trip to Paris in a couple of weeks ago, which gave us a much needed break from the daily grind. I have to say, there’s some spectacular scenery over there and it was fascinating to visit places that I’ve heard about before but never considered visiting. There are a few carbunkles in with the jewels, though, chief among them being the Pompidou Centre which looked like a scruffy mass of scaffolding to me. Maybe if we’d stopped off there before visiting Notre Dame Cathedral I might have been more appreciative of it’s industrial appearance, but I doubt it.

Speaking of Notre Dame Cathedral, it was while straining to see if I could spot it after crossing the Pont Neuf that caused me to not see a couple of steps, resulting in me spraining my ankle. At that point the best thing to do was to carry on moving, rather than stopping and letting it swell up like a water melon and cripple me. So we carried on, took a few pictures of the cathedral and then went looking for a pharmacy to get some tubigrip. Instead of tubigrip we came away with my ankle in a splint that cost about 35 euros, but considering the support it provided it was money very well spent. After getting my ankle strapped up we went for a rest in a little Cuban bar about a quarter of a mile from the Cathedral, where we shared a plate of meat tapas and, more importantly, I had a few medicinal cervezas. We did about another four miles worth of working after lunch, and at least another ten the following day, visiting the Bastille, the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur amongst other places, so that splint more than paid for itself.

My foot in plaster A couple of days after returning home (to Sarah’s parents’, which is our stopping off point on the way to our own house) we went to the local hospital to get my ankle checked out. We left with my leg in plaster after an X-ray showed that the pulled tendon had ripped a chunk of bone away from my ankle. So now I’m trying to get around with a plaster on my leg that is giving me less support than the splint I was using did, not to mention getting in the way of everything. I have to go back to the hospital in a couple of days to get the plaster off and have the ankle X-rayed again. Hopefully that’ll be the end of it, or at least the end of having to wear the stupid cast.

Despite that, Paris was great and I had no intention of letting a sprain stop us from enjoying the city. I’d recommend it to anyone who wanted a short break away.

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Great Ormond Street Hospital’s charity Dr Who auction.

I received this from a friend a few days ago, and with my usual sense of urgency have decided to post it up here. For those of you who don’t know, Great Ormond Street is a major children’s hospital located in London, and the GOSH Children’s Charity aims to supplement the funding provided by the NHS. Anyway, here’s Marty‘s notice:

Over the past few months I’ve played a very tiny part in a VERY special auction which is now live. Some facts that might bore a few of you but:-

“In 2005 Lancasters armourie were contracted by the BBC to build a number of prop swords for the Christmas special episode of the hit revival of Doctor Who.

Used by Doctor Who actor David Tennant and the leader of the Sycorax race the swords were seen by 10 million viewers.

Now Lancasters are auctioning the prototype of the sword (above) in aid of London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

And, as if owning this unique piece of television history wasn’t enough Lancasters have been aided in their fundraising effort by the generosity BBC Wales and actors David Tennant and Sean Gilder who have provided their signatures for engraving on the blade.

The sword will be auctioned via ebay. Clive Lankford of Lancasters tell us they “are not shy about the fact that we want this to make as much money for GOSHCC as possible”.

More information is available at Martin’s “MayorWatch” website, and the charity auction can be found on Ebay. The auction is set to end on June 19, so if you want to get a bid in you still have a few days to do so.

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Firefox window resize bug and other annoyances.

A few months ago I asked if anyone had noticed a bug in Firefox that caused the vertical scrollbar to vanish when resizing the browser window to 800 pixels wide. I never received any answers to the question – and I never thought much more about it as it didn’t affect my browsing and I could still test sites at that width, just without a scrollbar. However, after updating to Firefox 1.5.0.4 on Friday the bug mysteriously reappeared, and this time it seemed more severe. This time it was affecting my ability to test sites, and so this time I did a little more than just ask about it on here.

A screenshot of Firefox’s window resize bug in action
Thumbnail view of Firefox's window resize bug in action.
Rather than just losing the vertical scrollbar I now lost the horizontal one too, when one should be there – which would be every time for content that wasn’t fixed to fit in under 800 pixels wide as liquid layouts, such as the one on this blog, failed to resize too.

I did a search on bugzilla to see if there were any previously filed reports and found one dating back to 2003 which has identical symptoms to this one (as in it’s the same bug, 3 years and several browser versions later). It turns out that the problem is a result of the browser incorrectly tying viewport width in with the status bar width, so if your status bar contains a large number of icons, or a series of longer ones, you are likely to encounter this issue. In order to temporarily fix it I’ve had to disable the status bar icons for a number of my browser extensions so that they all fit at an 800 pixel wide resolution. This is far from ideal and diminishes the usefulness of my browser as a development tool, not to mention affecting the single biggest factor (in my opinion) in Firefox’s commercial success – it’s extensibility.

How a bug with such severe outcomes as this can survive for three years and across multiple updates and upgrades I don’t know – perhaps it’s down to its severity being stupidly marked as minor?

On a different note, I also think that the absence of an installation rollback feature for Firefox is a major omission that should be rectified ASAP. At this moment in time the only viable (yet risky) option for repairing a failed install/update, including automatic updates, is to overwrite the existing installation. For example if the install fails due to a corrupt installer package you need to overwrite it with a different copy, or less desirably, a previous version. How come? As mentioned, there’s no rollback feature and system restore often fails to correct the problem – I know, I tried it myself on Friday when the first update attempt left me with nothing more than an empty title bar:

Firefox 1.5.0.4 following automatic update using a corrupt installer package.
Firefox 1.5.0.4 after automatic update used a corrupt installer package.
My less than functional copy of Firefox, consisting of an empty title bar and a non-working close window button.

Fortunately overwriting with a different installer worked, if it didn’t I’d have needed some way of getting hold of an earlier version – not too easy when the Firefox download page only contains links to the latest version and Evolt’s latest archive version is 0.7.1 – the average user wouldn’t think to change the version number in the download URL at Mozilla. Also, I think the idea is for Firefox to not only be a first choice browser, but eventually to become the only choice for the average user? Like Internet Explorer is currently for millions of people – so what would have happened if that was the case? I’d have been left completely browserless and unable to find a way back to Mozilla to download a different copy of the installer package.

These are the kind of issues that Mozilla need to urgently address if they want to see their market share continue to rise, failure to do so could well lead to them losing it. The world is a fickle place and in my opinion the main factor keeping Firefox ahead of Opera at the moment is its extensibility, but even that has lingering flaws as is mentioned above.

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More meme madness

Feel free to skip this if you’re not interested in this kind of thing, but Toxie has meme tagged me. For revenge it seems. Anyway …

  • I AM: a bit lax at posting here.
  • I WANT: to get better at this web development malarky.
  • I HATE: the stupid petty things that I should be able to ignore.
  • I MISS: my parents.
  • I FEAR: being eaten alive.
  • I HEAR: a lot more than appearances indicate.
  • I WONDER: for a while, then I examine.
  • I REGRET: pretty much everything I did from 1978 to 1984.
  • I AM NOT: able to change those things.
  • I DANCE: almost as well as I sing.
  • I SING: incredibly well when incredibly drunk.
  • I SEE: amazing things.
  • I CRY: when no one appreciates my drunken singing.
  • I AM NOT ALWAYS: impatient.
  • I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: clicking noises.
  • I WRITE: occasionally.
  • I CONFUSE: now and then.
  • I NEED: motivation.
  • I SHOULD: learn javascript.
  • I START: with good intentions.
  • I FINISH: and want to redo it.

The other poor unfortunates that I’m inflicting this upon are:

  • Granty (link removed as his blog no longer exists)
  • Maz
  • Paul
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The First Annual CSS Naked Day

Dustin Diaz has announced the first annual CSS naked day to take place on the 5th of April. I had wanted to announce my participation in the event prior to my CSS turning off, but I didn’t get the chance to and now it’s gone.

Some of you may be wondering why I started early – well I haven’t really. You see I used the PHP function provided by Luke Wertz to disable my CSS automatically and, as mentioned by Dustin, this will turn the CSS off as soon as it is the 5th of April anywhere in the World, and keep it turned off until it’s no longer the 5th anywhere. In other words it’s an annual CSS 2 naked days.

To find out what it’s all about have a read of the announcement, however it’s summed up quite well here by Håkon Wium Lie, the creator of CSS:

This is a fun idea, fully in line with the reasons for creating CSS in the first place. While most designers are attracted by the extra presentational capabilities, saving HTML from becoming a presentational language was probably a more important motivation for most people who participated in the beginning.

Håkon has pledged to take part, along with several hundred other mental people 🙂

In a little under 48 hours my CSS will return in a blaze of glory, in the meantime you get to see a more attractive ap4a.

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