Posted by Jarsto in Category 42, Rants
July 27th, 2008 | 10 Comments »

I hate warm weather. I know the socially acceptable position is that hot, sunny weather is fun, but I personally hate it. Although actually I don’t think I’d mind just hot and sunny much. Here in the Netherlands it’s always (or at least always seems to be) hot, sunny, and humid. To me, that’s not a good combination.

I could take it if it were just the discomfort of the heat. Mind you, I wouldn’t enjoy it. But what really bugs me is what it does to me. It somehow manages to drain all my energy. Leaving me without as much vigour and drive as a damp cloth. The only thing I did manage to get done today was to set up my portable airco, which at least kept things somewhat bearable.

Since the prediction is for the next few days to be as warm, or warmer, I’m not looking forward to them. But at least now that I have the airco set up I should be able to start it earlier and (with luck) keep things a bit cooler.

And it’s not like I really did nothing today, I did a respectable amount of reading and even some editing. It just felt like I did nothing, and I guess I had to get that off my chest.

Posted by Jarsto in Rants, Technology
July 22nd, 2008 | 7 Comments »

Or: How Monitors Can Ruin Your Designs

Yes, the long awaited monitor rant is here. Reinforced by the fact that I checked my two recent attempt while at work. And on my monitor there I could sort of see why someone might not like them. They looked… different from the way they look on my own monitor at home. I could probably change that monitor to match what I have at home, but that would merely solve my frustration not the basic problem.

And the basic problem is this: no matter how you tweak a design, you can’t make it look the same for everyone everywhere. Another good example: my Samsung SyncMaster 940BW can actually cycle through a number of pre-set configurations as well as my own custom setting. I can use this to test what a design might look like on different monitors (probably should do that more often) though none of them happen to match the way my designs looked at work.

When I go over to Starstuff’s and cycle through my screen settings at least one of them makes the blue borders and sidebar background fade into the white background for the rest of the page.1 That of course can be headed off by using something with a bigger contrast, but even then it would look radically different on each setting, and there are people using most (probably all) off these out there.

Which more or less forces you back to Black on White or White on Black if you want to have any real influence over the appearance of your site. Black and White still do fall prey to these settings (especially some of the more ludicrous ones), but the two of them – and to a lesser extend shades of grey – are the closest thing to consistent rendering available. In fact, no matter how wacky the monitor configuration people are likely to know at least what Black and White look like on their own monitor.

Now I’m a control freak when it comes to this sort of thing anyway, but I suspect this would be enough to drive me into ranting territory even if I weren’t. Trying to get things to look the same across browsers is a nightmare already, but at least it can (to an extend) by managed by testing and then coding around the problems. Trying to get things to look the same on different monitors is an exercise in futility.

One would almost wish someone would come up with a standard configuration to be enforced across monitors. Unfortunately that would almost certainly be fucked up, so I guess I’ll have to learn to live with it. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
1 The same thing goes for some of Wikipedia’s background colours.

Posted by Jarsto in Rants, Technology
January 29th, 2008 | No Comments »

I read some online discussions about rolling release Linux distributions yesterday – including two about whether distros should switch to a rolling release system. Based on what I read I can only draw one conclusion: the art of logic is dying.

It was nice to see my favourite distro – Arch Linux – feature in discussions as a primary example, but people seem to confuse the process of a rolling release, with the goals Arch adds to it. This was most obvious with those opposing rolling releases, but I’m pretty sure at least some proponents had the same confusion.

What confusion do I mean? The sort where people object to a rolling release because they “don’t need to be on the bleeding edge” or “packages need to spend enough time being tested”. Both of these are valid desires, though I personally prefer a distro that does keep me at the bleeding edge, but neither of them has anything to do with whether or not you use a rolling release.

Yes Arch does choose to be on the bleeding edge, and yes you pretty much need a rolling release to stay there. But that doesn’t apply the other way around, you don’t need to stay on the bleeding edge just because you have a rolling release. If you wanted to you could easily make a distro where each package spends at least six months in a testing repository before going into the main system, and still do it as a rolling release.

Because the only thing that a rolling release means is that all packages upgrade to the most recent version that’s been approved by testing as part of the presently installed system. Instead of some packages only upgrading every X months when there’s a new version of the distro.

True, even with a longer testing period there are arguments¬† against a rolling release. One of the better ones I read yesterday dealt with the difficulty of such a moving target for a corporate roll-out to a large number of computers. But unfortunately the majority of the arguments boiled down to “I don’t need to be on the bleeding edge” and “packages need to spend enough time being tested”.

So much for logic.

Posted by Jarsto in Rants, Technology
June 28th, 2007 | No Comments »

This is a rant I’ve done before, but not here. I’ve been wrestling with a wordpress theme for someone else. It’s actually something I quite enjoy. Except for one part: compatibility checking.

Now I’ve been a Linux user for several years, but I’ve got a couple of windows installations kicking about in virtual machines. As a result I am at least in a position where I can test with pretty much all browsers. Not with Safari as of yet (haven’t bothered to install the Windows Beta), but Safari’s rendering engine is based on KHTML anyway, so I assume anything that works in Konqueror will work in Safari. So far, so good.

Unfortunately problems always seem to crop up at exactly the same point in compatibility checking. Having exhausted my Linux based browsers (Firefox, Konqueror & Opera) I switch on the VMs. IE7 usually doesn’t give any trouble. But then, there’s IE6. That always seems to be trouble.

In all fairness I knew (to some extend) what I was getting myself into this time. I want an effect that is best achieved, in opinion, with semi-transparent PNGs. Unfortunately Microsoft never added support for the PNG alpha channel to IE6. That leaves just three options:
1) Accept that buttons are ugly in IE6
2) Accept that solution isn’t as elegant but buttons work everywhere
3) Keep code clean and use an ActiveX filter to make IE6 buttons less ugly, but not actually pretty

Having to deal with that sort of thing is frustrating, to say the least. But the best recent figures on browser usage I can find still make IE6 the top browser ahead of IE7, which means that for many sites not supporting IE6 is not an option.

So I end up forcing myself to with the less elegant but functional solution, and I end up hating IE6 just a little bit more. Hopefully we’ll be rid of it soon, but realistically that’ll probably take quite a while.

Posted by Jarsto in Category 42, Rants
March 31st, 2007 | No Comments »

I’ve been DST agnostic for a few years now, but this year I’ve been looking at the figures, and I’m calling bullshit. Of course when I say looking at the figures it’s rather an overstatement, it seems to be rather difficult to find any solid data on what exactly the benefits of DST are supposed to be.

The one figure I’ve been able to find estimates that in the Netherlands we save 14 million euros a year on energy thanks to DST. Divided over a population of 16 million that means on average we each save roughly 90 cents a year. Quite frankly I’d rather give up 90 cents than have to adjust the time on watches, clocks etc. twice a year. Hell I’d be willing to pay one or two euros (on top of what I wouldn’t be saving) to get rid of not remembering to adjust my mobile phone’s time twice a year – it usually gets changed one or two weeks after the switch when I realise I haven’t done it yet.

Given that 14 million is also less than 0.01 percent of what the government spends each year it shouldn’t be too hard to collect something like this amount each year, and spend it on (subsidies for) wind farms and solar panels. Which would compensate for the environmental impact of not saving 14 million euros worth of energy. And what’s more we’d get rid of the losses due to reduced productivity after switching to DST, when half the workforce shows up for work tired. I personally guess that this costs more than the 14 million euros we’re saving to begin with.

Posted by Jarsto in Politics, Rants
January 26th, 2007 | No Comments »

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here. For the last few weeks that’s partly because I have been (and to a certain extend still am) tired as hell most of the time. I may blog more about that later, but right now I’m just pissed off about something and it’s burning through the feeling of exhaustion, to the point where I feel I need to rant about it.

I guess I should start this by pointing out that I follow a lot of British news and politics. One debate going on in Britain right now is about gay adoption. Specifically about Catholic adoption agencies who want to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws requiring them to place children with gay couples (if those couples fulfil all requirements for adoptive parents).

What pisses me off is not just that the Catholics would like an exemption, but the tactics they’re using. They’re threatening to close down their adoption agencies if they don’t get one. This is followed by some sort of “what’s best for the children” argumentation. That’s what truly pisses me off because apparently the best thing for the children is to be used as pawns in a game of emotional blackmail.

And worse than that, it seems to be influencing some people. Last night on Question Time, a political discussion program produced by the BBC, several people said there must be room for some sort of compromise. One panellist even pointed out that Catholic adoption agencies already refer gay couples to other adoption agencies.

But the point about equality is that by definition you can’t compromise on it. You can’t be “a little bit equal” any more than you can be “a little bit pregnant”. Just look at what would happen to some other “compromises” if anyone suggested them. If a racist restaurant owner were to suggest he would point any black people to another nearby restaurant, but wouldn’t allow them in his because his conscience wouldn’t allow it, no-one would see that as an acceptable “compromise”.

For that matter, staying with adoption, it’s unlikely that anyone would accept a conscientious objection from the Catholics to letting protestants, or Jews, or Muslims, or Hindus, or basically any non-Catholics adopt. Because that would quite simply throw equality out of the window. And that’s exactly the same when it’s about sexuality rather than race or religion.