Simon Willison’s Weblog

Items in Oct, 2002

Filters: Year: 2002 × Month: Oct ×

Phoenix usurps Mozilla

Phoenix 0.4 is out, and it’s so good it has replaced Mozilla as my default browser. Type Ahead Find makes browsing links and searching pages a dream (I’ve really come round to it after my initial whinge) but my favourite feature is the Google “I’m Feeling Lucky” integration built right in to the address bar. Type in a single word and Phoenix will try (and possible before passing it on to Google and redirecting to the first search result. Type in multiple words and I’m Feeling Lucky is invoked straight away. Normal Google searches can be run from the smaller Google field to the right of the address bar. It all adds up to a virtually seamless browsing experience, especially now that I’ve memorised the Google URLs of most of my favourite sites.

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Linux Gazette Python articles

Linux Gazette has a couple of interesting Python articles at the moment. Dealing with User Input in Python is a beginners guide to validating user input, while Pl/Python and Cursors in Pl/Pgsql for PostgreSQL explains how Python can be used to write stored procedures in PostgreSQL.

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Pull quotes and page titles

Adrian Holovaty has followed up his discussion of page titles on news article pages with a look at the oft-abused pull-quote. Adrian points out how pull quotes can lead to poor accessibility for text browsers and screen readers, and suggests that providing a “skip quote” link could help improve things. Adrian’s comments section attracts a number of professional web deverlopers working on all kinds of news sites so the discussion is likely to be well worth watching over the next few days.

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RSS validator uses my CSS

I just noticed that the RSS validator is using my numbered code listing CSS experiment :)

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CSS roundup

Jeffrey Zeldman has resolved his niggling CSS bugs, and posted the workarounds for all to see. What’s amazing and unprecedented about CSS layout is that it’s completely abstracted from the data it presents. he muses. Dorothea Salo points out that the publishing industry has been doing this for hundreds of years. Meanwhile, Todd Dominey has overhauled his CSS to get rid of the javascript browser detection and Mark Pilgrim and Scott Andrew have both posted funky Halloween CSS makeovers.

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Trade by Bumbers

Craig Saila has launched his latest project, Trade by Numbers, which uses valid code and (Netscape 4 friendly) CSS for layout. The CSS code is worth looking over for the intelligent use of browser hacks, all commented. Writing Netscape 4 compatible CSS is still something of a mysterious art form, but documentation is steadily increasing with useful resources such as Craig’s list of NS4 CSS layouts and Mark Newhouse’s Real World Style. The tips on NS4 compatibility in Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation are also invaluable for anyone who is serious about CSS but still has to support legacy browsers. I have yet to produce a NS4 compatible CSS layout but I’m beginning to realise that it’s not quite as impossible as many people make out.

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Disadvantages of TMTOWTDI

Slashdot have a story up linking to the Yahoo PHP presentation (mentioned earlier). The comments are pretty much an all out lanuage holy war, but the following comment explaining why Perl’s “There’s more than one way to do it” is a disadvantage when trying to write maintainable code caught my eye:

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ebook rants

Dorothea has posted two more excellent rants on the subject of ebooks, archiving and the importance of a single standard for master files (as opposed to a single standard for end user files which is a lot less important).

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Comment spam and game theory

Mark Pilgrim has posted another of his signature in depth explanations, this time concerning the recent worries over blog comment spam. He points out that all of the proposed solutions are Club solutions, not Lojack solutions, meaning they directly help those who implement them, possibly at the expense of others who do not. He then ties this in to game theory and the classic Prioner’s Dilemma problem.

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Validator warning

As Scott Andrew has noted, the W3C’s beta validator is now returning the following warning as part of it’s XML output:

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Realistic internet simulator

Hehe, this reminded me why I don’t use IE any more :)

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Roll on the micropayment revolution! Cashets are designed specifically for the small purchases—$1 (or less)—that you ordinarily can’t make on the Internet because sellers have a minimum. The smallest amount you can charge using the system is 2 cents, of which 1 cent will go to Cashets and 1 cent will go to you, the seller. The 1 cent is a flat rate for sales up the a dollar, then it’s 2 cents for sales up to 2 dollars and so on up the maxiumum charge of 5 dollars. The company is owned by MasterCard founder Michael Phillips and two unnamed partners who are “computer professionals”. The site is atrocious (the text on the front page is a big gif with no alt text ffs) but the business model looks like it could just be the thing small-to-medium web sites have been waiting for.

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Software Engineering practises for PHP

Scott Johnson’s presentation on Software Engineering Practices for Large Scale PHP Projects is fantastic—lots of excellent practical advice for professional development with PHP. It’s a shame the presentation slides require Internet Explorer (due to being exported from Power Point) but it was more than worth firing up IE to view them.

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PHP at Yahoo

Making the Case for PHP at Yahoo! (via Jeremy Zawodny) looks like it was a great presentation. The slides include the reasons PHP was chosen over ASP, ColdFusion, JSP and Perl and has some interesting details on the history of Yahoo’s server side technologies. Jeremy has extensive coverage of PHPcon so be sure to flick through some of his recent entries while you are there.

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W3C validator web service

Earlier today I mentioned how useful a web service interface to the new W3C validator would be. Tom Gilder pointed out in the comments that the validator now has an XML interface:

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Apple Internet Developer

Apple have an excellent site called Internet Developer, with articles covering a wide range of web development topics from HTML and CSS right through to Using SOAP with PHP.

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I haven’t been checking my referrer logs recently, so it was a nice surprise to see that Richard from Incutio has finished redesigning his blog and is now back to updating it frequently. He also has Pingback (implemented using IXR) and is pinging when he updates.

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Validator web service please

Scott Andrew calls for an XML-RPC or SOAP interface to the new W3C HTML Validator (currently in beta). I’ve been hoping for something for this like ages—if the W3C don’t do it it would be great if someone else set this up (the validator is open source but the bandwidth required for such an undertaking would probably be pretty high).

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Comment spammers

I suppose it was only a matter of time. Phil Ringnalda reports on a spam attack on his blog in which a spammer used a script to systematically spam the comments section of every entry, using a piece of code targetted at Moveable Type. Phil cut the spammer off after only 120 spams (and used mySQL to wipe out the spam in a few seconds) but this is still a very worrying precedent. Back in August I blogged a spamming company that targetted simple web based bulletin boards like WWWBoard—it looks like they (or someone like them) have discovered blogs.

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Tidakada redesign

tidakada has redesigned, with a funky new 4 column CSS layout and a brand new blog o’ links.

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It’s probably a good idea to keep axes and Jack Daniels away from Jason Kottke for the next few days...

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PythonCard scriptlets

Kevin Altis on scripting applications written in PythonCard:

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Googlism knows too much:

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Short sighted management

Bob Cringely: The Case Against Professionalism:

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Micropayments on the way

Craig Saila:

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Tweaking sites for readability

Jeffrey Zeldman’s new design continues to develop, but remains virtually unreadable on my monitor (without extensive tweaking of the settings). I’m not griping though as this was an ideal opportunity to play with Mozilla’s DOM inspector. This handy tool allows you to load up a page and browser through the DOM of the page, tweaking as you go. More importantly, it lets you modify the CSS rules for each individual element. It took a matter of seconds to fire up the inspector, browse down to the CSS rules for the body element and change the colour setting to rgb(255, 255, 255)—not particularly pretty but a lot more readable on this monitor than the default black. Of course, a bookmarklet to do the same thing would be much more convenient...

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Uzilla (via SurfMind) is a commercial product built on top of Mozilla:

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Office goes XML

Co-Inventor of XML Says Office 11 is “A Huge Step Forward for Microsoft” (via Slashdot). The comments are full of speculation over why Microsoft would open up their file format in this way having gained so much from having an obfuscated format.

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The Web Style Guide

Spotted in Ordinary Life’s new bookmarks, the Web Style Guide is a full online book covering all kinds of different aspects of web design. I’ve only glanced through it so far but it appears to have some excellent material on the design process, typography and editorial style. There is a good focus on usability and accessibility but web standards don’t really get much coverage, and CSS for layout is discouraged in favour of tables for reasons of browser support.

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CSS short hand

Introduction to CSS shorthand properties (via webgraphics, via Glish).

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