Older blog entries for bjf (starting at number 225)

DeepNorth: have you looked into CSS2 media types? CSS is sufficiently powerful that it can handle paged media and exotic non-visual output devices.


I've learnt a few tricks through my work and off my supervisors as a web app programmer and web monkey in my job.

Ideally, one would want to make your web pages as clean as possible and offload as much layout and style to the stylesheet as possible for non-graphical/non-visual browsers. You would then use the fancier features of CSS2 together with layout tweaks for different media (e.g. printed output, slides).

As for testing, I generally make sure that my pages don't look like arse in just three browsers: a recent IE, Mozilla and Lynx. I try to aim for good looking output in IE and Mozilla, and readability in Lynx. Make sure you're also using the print CSS media type and checking the browser's Print Preview feature to ensure that people printing your pages won't hate you. Having your web application render separate 'print versions' of data is not strictly necessary these days, since the majority of people on the web using graphical browsers are using CSS2-aware browsers. CSS2 support is not 100% consistent or correct across all common browsers, so it can't hurt to test...

FWIW, Opera is very web-developer friendly. If you're willing to use nonfree software, cough up for a license or put up with the lame banner ads, it allowes you to switch and disable stylesheets and handles CSS media types properly (try the projection media type with fullscreen mode ;-))

Web standards

Somebody at work mentioned the other day that the general design principle of the Web at it's inception was that publishers should be strict in what they produce and browsers should be lax in what they accept. By and large, this seems to have worked well, with browsers parsing even shit like "<b><i>foo</b></i>".

Mosaic essentially invented the web browser; most of the user-interface elements present in Mosaic are present in browsers today. However, if they had only included document validation within the web browser from the outset, they probably would have saved us all a lot of trouble WRT shoddy support of standards by tool vendors and publishers, etc.

Having a web browser parse the document and insert an icon and string into the browser status bar like "[TICK] HTML 4.0 Transitional" or a suitable error message sounds reasonable. If done early enough, such a feature, if common to all browsers, could've effectively embarassed thousands of individuals and vendors into building a cleaner and more interoperable Web. Hindsight is 20/20.

Short attention spans

I think I've got it all sussed out. My problem regarding lack of productivity isn't a lack of motivation, or a lack of sleep or time management skills per se, rather, a shortened attention span. After thinking about it for a while, I think the Web's to blame, since the issues I've been having coincide with the time I've had unfettered high-speed access to the Net.

I spend a lot of my leisure time browsing the Web, reading news sites and the like. My guess is that every time I do so, reading page after page or whatever has conditioned me to shorten my attention span through instant rewards.

I've also considered that each individual has a certain amount of time they can spend each day using their mind productively, and that time is consumed whether spent coding, or wasting time reading about Marcel Marceau or whippets.

Maybe a similar process happens when people develop IRC and MUD addictions? I've seen some people in the Furry crowd (no, I'm NOT a Furry) spend virtually their entire lives on MUDs pretending to be big-breasted skunks and weasels.

Well... I'd better stop wasting cycles writing this blog entry and get back to work :-)

1 Jul 2003 (updated 1 Jul 2003 at 14:39 UTC) »

This is a personal diary entry; one of these days, I'll set up a proper blog.

Vale the Fez

Today was a bad day for my family in general, and Errol the Feral in particular. Fez was much less an adorable drooling retard of a two year old male tabby cat, than a member of the family, albeit a handicapped one :-). Mum fondly referred to him as her 'special needs cat', alluding to her own job as a teacher specialising in special education.

Errol had to be put down after a brief but nasty illness which painfully constricted his airways and defied all treatment. The little fleabag will be sorely missed :-/


I passed a grading after another 15 months. I'll have my work cut out even if I redouble my efforts to make my next grade. I'm got a nice rainbow going on my tie rack now.


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work...

mbp: regarding Python generators. Python shortly won't be alone in being the only major language providing yield/iterators: C# is getting them along with a bunch of other goodies like real generics and anonymous methods (MSDN article). Microsoft haven't delivered yet, but the Mono people beat them to the punch by adding iterators to a recent release.

As for me, as usual, the closest thing to hacking I've been doing is working on a paper my colleagues at work wrote.


I learnt of the httpmail protocol, a bastard undocumented WebDAV variant that basically does the same thing as IMAP. Apparently, Outlook Express uses it for it's "HTTP" mail method that allows it to pull mail off Hotmail.

I downloaded the Fetchmail sources and have spent a bit of time investigating whether it's possible to integrate httpmail support into the client so I can grab all my mail in one hit. It should sure beat the hell out of using some lame-ass screen scraping script to recover my Hotmail.

If I do get this thing built, I might simply maintain a separate patch from the Fetchmail sources (a quick browse of fetchmail-friends turned up a bunch of posts infested with techie/OSS arrogance). Once I wrap my head around it, I'll hack some code and report some more on it.

I have little sympathy for people who complain about paying taxes. Not only is it completely fucking cliche, they are probably people with the least appreciation of the civilising influence of government. Governments are an annoyance to the rich and powerful fucking everyone else around them, but are literally a lifeline to the poor, at-risk and vunerable. People who believe it's their right to get rich and not give back to the society that facilitated their wealth are, in my humble opinion, the moral equivalent of fresh dogshit.

"I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."

-- former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

20 May 2003 (updated 20 May 2003 at 16:25 UTC) »

My time management skills suck, but I'm trying to find practical ways to make more efficient use of my time and arrange more time to do some hacking.

One experiment I would like to try is to start coming into work an hour early and allow myself a little time to hack on something that I find personally interesting and which might be useful for work. I'm hoping this would be a good strategy to get myself in the right mindset each morning and hopefully improve my productivity overall. I'll start once I can manage a full night of sleep :)

Lately, I've been having some interesting issues with some interesting and difficult people. One guy seems to have this 'Cable Guy' complex where after speaking with me for fifteen minutes, believes he's my best friend. I don't know about you guys, but I find this a little disconcerting.

Speaking of difficult people, I could tell you all all sorts of lurid recent stories about Furries, freeloaders, people who won't shower, guys who like rough trade, etc etc. But I won't. This is a family show, right?


I turn 25 on the 3rd, so I'm starting to feel a little older. At any rate, it's a pretty good excuse for a party :)

I'm pondering doing a photo-essay of my local area (West End) for my own amusement, but I think I'll need to plan my run in detail beforehand and arrange to have the means to get the images scanned.


Not unlike fifty million other people, I believe that you're totally missing the point of playing with Open Source software. Remember that most OSS people hack because it's fun, because they're good at it, or a combination of both. Also remember that in capitalism, an object's worth is governed by how much people are willing to pay for it. Why should the world pay you for your work if it's not useful to them? Why does the world owe you a living? Notice how very few other people are whining about how unfair the world is for not giving them a living because they're so special and talented and genuises with multi-hyper-complexity and all that guff? I didn't think so.


Just when we thought Mr Glazer was about to pull his head in and actually refrain from stirring the shit with his hateful rhetoric, he's at it again.

Dude, you're an idiot. There are plenty of other sites on the net for that sort of thing, and unlike Advogato, they're full of like-minded uneducated twits like you, where you'll actually fit in. Do you think that if you post enough crap, we'll start masturbating over Israel and hating Arabs as much as you? Seen your diary rating lately? File your crap in the appropriate forum, not here.


We've got a whopper of a talk lined up at HUMBUG this weekend: we got a guy in from Red Hat to come in and talk about internationalisation issues. Everybody seems to be as pleased as punch with it, but unfortunately, I'm going to be out of town so I get to miss all the fun :-/ Family has to come first, I suppose.


After attending my most recent Labor branch meeting, I has an interesting discussion with a guy who helps run a migrant support and advocacy centre here in inner Brisbane, catering especially for people of African origin. I mentioned in passing that I also was involved with HUMBUG and the discussion moved towards how I could possibly help out considering my background as an IT person and dabbler (dilettante?) in Open Source.

I think that increasing awareness of Open Source software here could do a hell of a lot of good, but I presently have no idea who exactly my target audience is and what exactly OSS can do to help these people considering my background. I have some starting points at least, so all is not lost.


I found it slightly amusing that the first Labor branch meeting I attended was on April Fools Day. I wonder if that is some sort of bad omen.

I quickly understood the old adage about politics being the ultimate challenge: I was struck by the energy, ability, knowledge and committment of the people I met. As it stands, for somebody like me without a background in student politics or a political science degree, I've just committed myself to a hell of a lot of learning and hard work.

Anti-Bush play withdrawn after director attacked. Now this is what I call a "chilling effect". I wonder with all the hypocracy in the world, how some people can sleep at night.
A case of the left hand not knowing what the Right hand is doing: Australia Councils grants $25,000 for development of game entitled "Escape from Woomera". I just love the irony.

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