Simon Willison’s Weblog

Entries in Dec, 2002

Filters: Type: entry × Year: 2002 × Month: Dec ×

Smarter exceptions

Useful Java article: Make Exceptions Smarter (via Keith).

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Debugging HTTP headers

Tantek has released two new favelets for revealing HTTP information, using Mozilla’s ever useful Web Sniffer and Delorie’s HTTP Header Viewer. I spotted a similar tool on a recent trip to MozDev: LiveHTTPHeaders adds a “Headers” tab to the page information box in Mozilla 1.2, showing the full request and response headers used for the current page. It’s a very nice tool, but unfortunately does not yet work with Phoenix (the headers tab is added to the info box but the header information does not appear).

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Security and coding style

A couple of good web development security resources:

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Blockquote citations

Inspired by Adrian Holovaty, I spent an hour this morning getting dirty with the DOM in an effort to replicate his funky CSS blockquote citations effect but with links that you can actually click on. The resulting code is now active on this weblog—check the javascript out here.

[... 86 words] rant

Someone, please, tell me UsabilityNet is a joke. Spotted via an article on, UsabilityNet (apparently recently redesigned) claims to be “a project funded by the European Union to provide resources and networking for usability practitioners, managers and EU projects”. Again, IANAUE but here are some things wrong with it just off the top of my head:

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Gracefully degrading

StopDesign is a superb example of a site that degrades gracefully for Netscape 4, thanks to a carefully crafted basic stylesheet. Doug discusses the necessity of including a browser upgrade message and some of the different approaches used around the ’net.

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Conversations with Joe Clark

Jonathan Delacour is three days in to his Conversation with Joe Clark series (see also parts one and two and the introductory book review). I thoroughly recommend reading the whole series, but here are a few points that stood out for me:

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Hotbot redesign

Douglas Bowman provides some background to the new HotBot redesign, which uses CSS for layout and almost but doesn’t quite validate. It was all looking great until the HotBot Skins page told me I should upgrade to a browser that supports web standards (I was using Phoenix).

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Tantek’s markup challenge

In A Touch of Class, Tantek continues his series of tips on writing better semantic markup and then issues a challenge: find related improvements that can be made to his blog. I couldn’t find anything in the overall structure, but I have a few (admittedly nit-picky) suggestions for his current entries. Firstly, the following line would, in my opinion, be better served with a titled <dfn> element:

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Creative Commons copyright link

It’s great to see the Creative Commons getting an overwhelmingly positive reception—as Lessig says on his blog, ’Tis the season to be giving, and this will be a great gift to the Commons. If you haven’t seen their explanatory flash animation, Get Creative, you should really check it out.

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Stuart on plays

Stuart has some interesting thoughts regarding Mark Pilgrim’s latest entry: an excerpt from The Real Thing, a play by Tom Stoppard.

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Coursework complete

Coursework is done and dusted; normal service can now resume :)

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Creative commons launch

Creative Commons License
The contents of this weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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Clearing a select box

Deep in to coursework now, but I just spent more time than I care to mention struggling with what should have been a very simple task; removing all of the items from an HTML select box using Javascript. Here’s the code that was causing me problems:

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Joe Clark interviews

On Monday, Slashdot posted an excellent in depth interview with Joe Clark, author of Building Accessible Websites. In a fantastic display of cluelessness they pasted the XHTML document which Joe sent them straight in to the Slashdot template, <html> tags and all. The good news is that there’s more Joe Clark related goodness to come, courtesy of Jonathan Delacour:

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Interview with Tim Perdue

OSDir: Interview with Tim Perdue. GForge and behind the scenes at SourceForge.

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Lots to learn

There’s a heck of a lot to learn.

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Trade it on Trodo

Adrian Holovaty has revealed his previously hinted at secret project. is kind of an online bartering site. You give away stuff you no longer have a use for to earn credits, which you can then spend on requesting free items from other people. It’s a very interesting idea, and the trading model is explained in depth in Adrian’s comments section.

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Google roundup

I’ve missed out on a whole bunch of Google news lately (all of which has come via the Google Weblog). Google labs have a couple of interesting new demos; Google Viewer, a weird slideshow thing that cycles through search results for you using bizzare DHTML and Google Webquotes, which annotates the results of your Google search with comments from other websites. Google have also published their End-of-Year Zeitgeist which offers a unique overview of the year’s events based on Google search statistics.

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A new source of rants

Soup is Good is a new blog by a friend of Jeremy Zawodny. It looks like one to watch—two quality rants and counting.

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Lambda calculus links

An Introduction to Lambda Calculus and Scheme and Wikipedia’s Lambda Calculus page have both proved useful recently.

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Coursework frenzy again

Coursework frenzy is kicking in again. This time I have a large group project and two personal projects (one small, one large) due for Tuesday of next week. I’m clearing out my things-to-blog list and then I intend to knuckle down to some work.

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Opera usability problems

Matthew Thomas lists 21 usability problems with the Opera 7 beta.

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Why MSN Messenger sucks

Acts of Volition: What’s wrong with MSN Messenger 5.0. I rarely load up MSN (I like to browse in peace) but I’d like to add a few points, aimed at Messenger in general rather than any particular version of the software:

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Personal web proxies

Les Orchard is considering building his own web proxy. I had never thought about the possibilities of these technologies beyond caching before, but Les’s post has really got me thinking. I often find myself searching around for a web page I visited a few months ago and can only vaguely remember—a proxy generated searchable history (I never got the hang of using my browser’s) would be a very useful tool. In addition, the ability to cache local copies of useful documents to preserve them should the original ever go offline would be very handy. How about a proxy with an accompanying small GUI desktop application which shows your recent browsing history (the last 15 pages or so) and allows you to mark documents for bookmarking / preserving? The application and proxy server could communicate via XML-RPC.

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Generics in java

It looks like Java is set to get a new feature—Generics—in version 1.5. Generics are the Java equivalent of C++ templates; they severely help clear up confusions over types used with abstract data types such as lists and sets. Preparing for Generics explains this new feature and the kind of problems it solves.

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Striking the 1976 act

Lawrence Lessig:

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One time URLs with PHP

Generating One-Time URLs with PHP has some simple example code which demonstrates PHP’s file locking functions in action.

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The perils of semantic markup

Phil Ringnalda: The perils of good semantic markup. A throwaway comment by a blogger about some trashy manufactured band results in his (properly marked up) site ending ranked higher by Google than the official band’s site for searches on their name. This results in a barrage of moronic fan comments and apparently an even bigger barrage of moronic fan email.

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Phoenix 0.5 and mouse gestures

Phoenix 0.5 has been released, and so far it’s an absolute dream. The Windows installer is a paltry 6.1 MB and it is noticable faster than Phoenix 0.4—the initial speed boost was so impressive I spent several minutes loading up large, bloated sites just to admire the speed with which they appeared. The Phoenix team are aiming for a 5 MB Windows installer for the final release—here’s hoping they manage it.

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