An update on my hiatus

With 2013 more than halfway over, I figured it’s about time I get back into blogging again. As with most things in life, I can’t be sure if I will actually follow through with this and continue writing on here, but I like to think I will.

With that said, I guess it’s time to explain what in the hell I’ve been doing these past three years.

My hiatus started when I got a job as a web developer at ForeWord Reviews in January 2010. ForeWord Reviews is a lovely, little magazine based in Traverse City, Michigan, that focuses on reviewing books that are published independently and by small presses. At the time, their (our) web presence consisted of three different websites, all built on different platforms, each extremely outdated, and no revision control in sight—changes were made directly on the server. On top of that, data “moved” from one website to the next, but it was all done manually. Ugh.

But, things are different now. All of the data has been merged into a single database, all of the code into a single website. (All of the database structure and code is also tracked in Git now.) And almost all of our staff’s day-to-day work is done via our online dashboard. Oh, and did I mention we now have one-step deployments, which also takes care of database changes? All thanks to me. And I couldn’t thank me enough.

It’s been a busy three years, but all of the hard work paid off and work weeks are finally calming down to a consistent 40-50 hours a week, with fewer and fewer midnight emergencies. Life is good. And now I have a bit more free time to work on other things I love: blogging and contributing to open source projects (and even publishing a few of my own). So here’s to the future!

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CSS3 – Still Missing Functionality… on Purpose!

Last night I was working with Consummo to build a client’s website and I ran into a stumbling block. CSS3 does not allow for colors to be declared alongside images (except as the last value). What does this mean? A website can have several background images, each with or without transparency, and a background color behind all of it. Personally, I assumed (you know what they say about assume) background colors could be defined on top of background images (in the same element), but I was wrong. In the CSS3 Candidate Recommendation, the background shorthand property can have a value as follows: [ <bg-layer> , ]* <final-bg-layer> where color can only be defined in the place of <final-bg-layer>.

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Issue with HTML5, CSS3, and site navigation.

A while back, it was suggested that limiting links to anchor tags (a) should be avoided in HTML5. It was declined due to backward compatibility issues and also because it would be difficult to implement. Not only that, but no one could bring forward a test case where using a different tag as a link was necessary. Well, I believe I have found one, and I am curious as to whether anyone has a solution.

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Review of Ubuntu 9.10

Ubuntu LogoIt’s been nearly two weeks since the release of Ubuntu 9.10, and I am proud to announce that I have performed a fresh install of Ubuntu 9.10. I haven’t used Windows in months, due to lack of designing in Photoshop and the abundance of programming I’ve been doing recently, so I thought it was time to get rid of it entirely. Now that I have, I must say I couldn’t be happier. With 20 GB dedicated to the main install and nearly 40 GB for my home directory, I doubt I will ever run out of room. Of course, if I do, I always have a 120 GB external drive waiting to be filled up.

With my bragging out of the way, it’s time to give my review of Ubuntu 9.10. Firstly, I would like to thank the Ubuntu team for delivering amazing results for this release. Everything runs faster and smoother than ever before, even before my fresh install.

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Ubuntu 9.10 Released!

Ubuntu Logo

Today is the day. No, not the 20th anniversary of the birth of Elizabeth Kampwerth. Well, yes, but that’s not what this article is about. Today is the release of Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Koala. For those of you that have not had the pleasure of having personal relations with Ubuntu, I apologize and encourage you to abandon Windows on the curb. Or at least send Windows to the other room while you gaze upon Ubuntu in all of its glory.

If you haven’t used any of the nightly builds (aka you’ve been using Ubuntu 9.04 until today), you’re bound to notice some major changes. The first change you’ll notice is the faster boot time, thanks to Upstart. Then, of course, the upgrade to the new GNOME release (which uses Empathy instead of Pidgin by default). On top of that, Ubuntu also ships with a new Linux kernel. With the expected changes out of the way, I’ll introduce a few things that you may not have been expecting.

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Unobtrusive Advertising

Have you ever visited a website with the intent of reading an article, only to see a full page ad? After clicking ‘continue’, or waiting fifteen to thirty seconds, you finally reach the page of the article. But wait, what’s this? A banner ad, a skyscraper ad, and a huge square advertisement smack-dab in the middle of the article itself. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you notice a new window has opened under your current window with an ad in it. After closing that, another window pops up with another ad. If you hadn’t closed the article already, you probably will now. This example may seem extreme, but it really has happened. Luckily, it is not nearly as common as it used to be.

I mentioned unobtrusive advertising last year when I was ranting about copyright complaints by blog owners, but I believe a bit more of an explanation (and rant) is needed. Let the world know how you feel about advertising by leaving a comment or three below :) Maybe we can get the word out about unobtrusive advertising (or at least get into a debate with someone who has no class whatsoever).

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HTML, BBCode, or Plain Text?

Most every web developer has asked himself (or herself) this question at least once. While some applications only need one method of parsing, many should support at least two. There is rarely a need to include support for more than two methods on any single part of an application though.

In this article, several parsing techniques will be covered, including Textile, BBCode, and HTML. WYSIWYG editors will also be discussed. Pros and Cons of each technique will be examined to provide you with facts and my own opinion.

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Avatar System

Have you ever noticed how you have to upload a new display picture for every forum and blog you create an account at? Well, there has been a system in place for a while now to make this no longer a problem. It is called Gravatar (Globally Recognized Avatars). Gravatar allows you to upload a display picture on their site (up to 512×512). This Gravatar is then used on any site that uses the gravatar system (all you have to do is use the same email!). There will also be an option to change the default Gravatar icon to that of Identicons, MonsterIDs, Wavatars, or your own custom image! The Gravatar system also allows each theme to use a different size of display picture without ruining the look of the entire site.

Other Benefits

The use of Gravatars also make the application more secure as there is no need to upload a display picture. All uploads are done on the Gravatar website. There is also less server space taken up as well as less server load (all images hosted, resized, and served up by Gravatar).

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Google Chrome – A new kind of browser

A day late, but that gave me the chance to test out Google Chrome for myself. At first glance, it doesn’t look like much, but Google has always had a way of doing that. To start off with, the entire interface is different from any other browser. It doesn’t even have the normal title bar. They basically (literally actually) started from scratch when they created this application. Google definitely just made the browser wars more interesting.

Going against their normal routine, they made Chrome open source. I’m not complaining at all, but it surprised the hell out of me. If that’s not enough, they’re encouraging others (Mozilla for example) to use Chrome’s code to make their browser better. So even if you’re not going to use Chrome, you will still benefit from it’s release.

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Copyright Infringement

Something I’ve never been able to understand is why people get upset if a blogger or website displays a picture from their website or article along with a link to their article/website. I mean, isn’t that what the web is all about? Personally, I would be ecstatic if someone wrote an article on one of my websites or blog posts. I wouldn’t care what image they used from my site, so long as they provided a link to my site. What can I say, I love free advertising.

The reason this has been on my mind lately is because I’ve gone to several news websites and noticed copyright notices left and right. They even want to charge if you use the article regardless of where you use it. My first thought was ‘Oh, they don’t want people copying the article for their own use.’ Well, I was right and wrong. Not only do they not want people copying the entire article, but they don’t want people to use even a snippet without paying for it. If you’re really that desperate to make a  little money, why not try unobtrusive advertising? Get people to pay to advertise in one of the side columns. You’ll begin pulling in money in no time, especially if you have a commonly used website.

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