Posted by Jarsto in Meta
November 24th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

Along with a record number of blogposts – at least for me – and a record number of words this month I’ve just noticed another record. When I checked my site-statistics just now I found I’ve had 505 “unique visitors” this month. With “unique visitor” defined as any IP address listed as making at least one visit.

Going over 500, with nearly a week still to go, means I’ve broken the previous record by some 70 visitors. All other stats are similarly up. True I won’t be competing for traffic with Google and Wikipedia for just a while longer, but still, it’s always nice to see the number go up.

Posted by Jarsto in NaNoWriMo 2008, Technology
November 23rd, 2008 | No Comments »

I mentioned in my last post – which will actually be posted at the same time as this one – that after the “in lap” trial I was looking forward to trying my new keyboard in bed. I’m still looking forward to that, but when I wrote that I completely forgot one further trial I had coming: writing on a moving train.

And the good news is: this is definitely possible. In fact the major challenge so far is that the tables the train I’m currently in offers are too high – compared to the chairs – to let me type on one of them comfortably for a longer stretch of time. So I’ve moved to writing in my lap again. That’s not the ideal position to be typing either, but right now it’s more comfortable than having to try to keep my arms up the whole time; wasn’t that used as a form of corporeal punishment at some time past?

Anyway, one other point I’ve not blogged yet, unless I’m much mistaken, is the weird position this keyboard gives to the question mark. That’s been shifted around somehow to make room for the cursor keys, wich isn’t a bad reason to move something. The problem however is that this means I keep hitting Shift + Cursor-up when I mean to hit a question mark, which selects a line and then replaces it with the next thing I type. The undo function has kept this from, costing me any words, but it is just a bit annoying.

Another thing that’s annoying me a little right now are occasional “Demo Version” freezes from my screen rotation app. I’m probably going to get the full version pretty soon though. I was working without the rotation for most of the weekend, which meant keeping the PDA upright, and there’s no great problem with that when you’re working on a nice stable table. It’s not even a big problem when working in your lap on solid ground.

But now, typing on a moving train it does make the whole thing a bit wobbly. So I’ve got the screen rotation back on – long story short I had a backup with it in that seemed broken, but managed to get it working again – and I’m typing on a nice stable PDA. It’s not perfect, given the choice of lap or too high table, but it’s good enough to be getting on with for now. So I think I’ll close this post here and do some more writing.

Posted by Jarsto in NaNoWriMo 2008, Technology
November 23rd, 2008 | No Comments »

Obigatory Jane Austen moment: “I hear such different accounts of you as to puzzle me exceedingly.” That’s pretty much where I was when it came to whether or not the new keyboard would be any use in my lap. The reviews I found online ahead of the time rather differed on that point.

It seems to be working pretty well right now, though not quite as well as it would on the table I have to keep my legs together to keep it stable, and even so it’s moving a bit more than it would on a table. That occasionally causes the IR connection to lose lock on but on the whole it’s quite workable.

I’ll probably be doing my main writing on tables anyway. But for an early morning blog entry (I’m writing this at 09:30 not matter when it will be posted) this works quite well. Now then next thing to test, when I get home tonight, is going to be how well it’ll type when I lie down on my bed with it in front of me. That would be the ideal way to work on stuff late at night, although it’ll probably rather up the risk of falling asleep while writing.

Posted by Jarsto in Technology
November 21st, 2008 | 3 Comments »

I’ve been having some fun with the testing site this morning. And especially with translations. A colleague at work asked about the possibility of me doing a couple of pages in Dutch on this site. And while I may do a couple of pages at some point, I simply don’t have the time (alternative theory: I’m simply to lazy) to translate most of the site. So I decided to muck about with some PHP and come up with some automated translation links.

That led to me playing around with Google Translate and Yahoo’s Babelfish, trying to decide which does a the better job of translating. It’s difficult to say that for sure, since both end up rendering some parts readable and some completely garbled (just never the same parts for some reason).

I had some good laughs at that and decided I couldn’t possibly deny people who don’t read Dutch similar laughs when they read my site. So I came up with a neat little trick to have Google translate Yahoo’s Dutch back into English. Most of that translation is Hilarious enough to start with. But one thing in particular caught my eye.

The place name “Apeldoorn” in this post is translated into English as “Calcutta”. I don’t know where than error came from, but it’s a thing of beauty. On the other hand, maybe I should call my mother to make sure she hasn’t moved without telling me. But then again, why would she tell Google…

Just in case they get that translation fixed any time soon click this link for a screenie of the translation (Calcutta is in the bottom right hand corner on this shot).

Posted by Jarsto in Site News, Technology
November 15th, 2008 | 4 Comments »

Well it’s been in development for quite a while, but the new look is finally active on the site. The one thing that remains sort of unsettled is the link colour. The grey I’ve got on it now (#666666 if you’re interested) seems to be working, but I may do some more experiments there.

I’ll also be doing some browser compatibility testing later. I got most of that out of the way while the site was still in testing, but there can always be another couple of niggling little bugs somewhere. If you spot one of them feel free to comment here. And if you just want to comment on some part of the new look, also feel free to comment here.

Posted by Jarsto in Technology
November 11th, 2008 | 11 Comments »

jnl-new-light2 I think we’re getting close to a winner here. I’ve put in a two-tone background for the main area, and while that still needs a bit of tweaking here and there, I’m pretty satisfied with the effect. It brings the yellow through into the main area just a bit, and gives the background pattern a bit more body, without screaming too much about it. I do actually want to reduce the yellow slightly from the example shown here, but not by a terrible lot.

Right now I’m actually looking for a filter, or a trick that’ll allow me to delete a certain percentage of somewhat randomly spaced yellow pixels from the top layer of the background image, without simply lowering the opacity for the whole layer, which just doesn’t have quite the same effect. I’d like a quarter, or possibly even a third, of it to be gone. But that’s mainly down to tweaking, the basic design is there now – I think.

One final point: if you compare with the earlier screenies you’ll notice I’ve changed the colour of the top menu-layer to match the background for the main area. The only other tweak I’m currently looking at is the link colour for the main area, which isn’t quite working for me now that it’s more or less blue on blue. Even so, I’ve got a feeling the end of the redesign process may well be in sight. Or at least the end of this round of the redesign process. I’ve sort of given up on the idea of ever being truly satisfied with this site’s look for more than a few months at a time.

Posted by Jarsto in Technology
November 10th, 2008 | 5 Comments »

jnl-new-darkSince I have a little time to spare from NaNoWriMo now, having reached 50k, I’m slowly bringing back some other activities in my spare time. One of them is playing around with the design for this site. I’ve got a new layout pretty much worked out, though it has one downside: it doesn’t scale right now.

The only way I’ve found of doing a good scaling design is to use tables for structure. This has been an official W3 no-no for a while now, but the fact of the matter is that tables, because all the cells are linked, are far more forgiving when it comes to scaling than divs will ever be.

Be that as it may, I’ve decided to play nice with the new design (for the time being at least) which means I’m doing it all in divs. That may mean fixed width, but I’ve actually managed to get it to a point where I’m not too unhappy about the way it looks, even if it doesn’t scale all that well.

But while I’m pretty happy with the new layout (and actually have been for a month) there are two things nagging at me. Firstly there’s the fact that the background acts weird when scaling down below about 1000px browser width. This is to do with the fact that I want a non-scrolling background and the only way to have that work in MSIE6 is to lock it to the body element (which of f*cks up the positioning when the window is smaller than the body width).

jnl-new-lightNow I could probably live with bad scaling, at least for the time begin if there weren’t also another problem: I can’t quite decide on the colour scheme. I’ve been contemplating a switch from black on a light background to white on a dark background for a while now, and have managed to get it to the point where it looks okay.

But the fact remains that most rendering packages tend to get confused when you do this. Rather than making the surrounding pixels lighter to antialias the font they make some of the pixels in the letter darker, which means a light font on a dark background is pretty much guaranteed never to look quite as clear cut as a dark font on a light background.

So I’ve taken some time yesterday and today to experiment with lighter backgrounds and black text again, and I think I may be close to getting a winner. But even so I would like a few more opinions. So as you’ll have noticed the thumbnails linking to the two screenies by now please have a look at both of them and let me know what you think.

Posted by Jarsto in Category 42, Technology
August 15th, 2008 | No Comments »

Or: A Tale Of Limited Bandwidth

I’m not sure whether I’ve blogged about this before or not, but I do some volunteering for a local chapter of the political party I belong to. One of the things I do there is system administration, which currently involves a switch from Windows to Linux. Which is why I am, right now, downloading hundreds of megabytes of uploads over a 512 kbit DSL line.

Now there’s nothing wrong with 512 kbit lines as such, I remember dialup well enough for even this to feel pretty snappy in some respects. But when you’re pulling several hundred megabytes over a line like this you do notice that the rest of the internet starts to feel slow. So as I’m on a Linux system, with Lynx installed, I decided to do a bit of browsing that way.

For those who don’t know it (though I think I’ve mentioned it before), Lynx is a console (text) based browser which, as it is text based, omits images as a matter of course. And on a somewhat stressed line getting rid of the images (90% or more of the data for most pages) speeds up browsing quite a bit. Even so it makes writing this blog entry a rather different from usual experience.

And it’s not just different, it’s also slightly nostalgic. I have no real memories of text only internet, but I do remember text only (DOS) computing, albeit without anything like the internet around at the time. Working with a black background and (mainly) light grey text does bring back memories. For that matter some elements in the interface, especially a bar with yellow text on a blue background at the bottom of the screen, make me nostalgic for Word Perfect 5.1.

I’ll end this entry here. I mainly started it to kill time while waiting for the downloads to complete, and from the look of it they’re nearly ready. Still it’s been a fun exercise in retro computing, and one I may well repeat at home.

Posted by Jarsto in Meta
August 8th, 2008 | No Comments »

While talking about importing from Blogger to WordPress with a friend I decided to go ahead and take the plunge myself (I’d been thinking about it for a while). So I’ve imported my old Blogger Writing Blog into this one. It’s going to take some time got get all 65 posts properly recategorised, but I’m making progress on that, and at least it means all my blogging is now in the same place.

Update: I’ve finished shoving everything I just imported into the “Old Writing Blog” category. I’ll probably go through later to add some more category details, but it’ll do for now. I’ve deleted exactly one old post, to be precise the “blog moved” post when I closed up that one and moved everything over here.

Posted by Jarsto in Technology
August 4th, 2008 | 5 Comments »

Yes I know, I haven’t actually finished the re-design yet. For that matter I’m not at all certain the current code will survive, but I have got a testing version of the new layout up and running… more or less. Right now it’s got a hack to display right in IE6 and probably still needs one to work in IE7, but that can wait.

You can have a look at the testing version of the site now right here. The only thing not working in the testing version is the blog. And the front page content is currently identical to the My NaNo History page because I had to have a good amount of text in a hurry and that happened to be easily available. I guess I’m really going to have to figure out what the hell I want to do with the front page when I put this design up for real.

I’m also by no means certain about the current colour scheme, or for that matter anything beyond the basic layout. But having said that, it is a pretty fair test run for the basic layout. Oh and one more IE6 note: the on hover sub menu switching doesn’t work in IE6. I’m currently considering whether or not it’s going to be worth the effort of hacking in some javascript to get that to work. I have no particular sympathy for anyone using IE6 voluntarily, but many people are forced to use it at work (I should know, I’m one of them).