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Archive: January 2004

iRant, But Not Too Much

From my point of view, the biggest news from Steve Jobs’ keynote this morning was the announcement of iLife.  More specifically, it was the new version of iPhoto, which I’d really been hoping would be announced.  And so it was.  It’s much faster, more capable, enables photo sharing with Rendezvous—just about everything I’d hoped would happen.  Unfortunately, it also came with something I hadn’t expected: a price tag.

I have no problems with Apple charging money for a piece of software.  What bothers me is the practice of releasing it for free and then, without warning, bundling it into a commercial suite.  If they’d charged for it all along, that would be fine.  If we’d known ahead of time that it would be free until Apple felt it was a product worth selling, at which time it would stop being free, fine.  But that was never made clear, if it was even mentioned at all, and I find that annoying.

Further exacerbating the problem is that of the five iLife components, I have use for only two of them, iPhoto and iTunes, and the former of them is (for the moment) free.  iDvd, iMovie, and Garage Band are completely useless to me as I have neither a video camera nor a garage band.  So if I really want iPhoto 4, I have to pay $49 for it and a bunch of unnecessary code.  That doesn’t make sense to me.  Hopefully, Apple will offer the iLife components separately, so that I could pay $9.99 for iPhoto and ignore the rest.  Or, better still, they’ll release an update to the free iPhoto that fixes the sluggishness but doesn’t include the other cool stuff in the commercial version.

Alternatively, I could hunt for a freeware replacement to iPhoto.  At least one colleague has asked me why I use iPhoto at all, given its slowness and the bloated data files and directory structures it creates.  The thing is, I really like the way iPhoto allows you to modify photos while preserving the originals, and the way album organization is handled.  The transition effect in the slideshows is pretty nifty, too.  In general, the whole iPhoto interface and feature set works pretty well for me—it’s just the lack of speed that’s a problem.  Well, that and the lack of smoothly resized exports, but I’ve complained about that in the past.  If I could find something equivalent to iPhoto, or at least darned close to it, I’d probably switch.  If no such application exists, then I’d love to see some open-source coders get together and create one.  Any takers?

Running Just To Stay In Place

The e-mail backlog has finally forced me to do something I’ve long resisted: the site now has an FAQ.  I thought about calling it a QAF (Questions Frequently Asked) or maybe an FRE (Frequently Received E-mails).  But in the end the weight of tradition got me to go with the traditional nomenclature.  If you’re thinking of sending me e-mail, please read the FAQ first to see if the answer is there.  As much as I love correspondence, I just can’t keep up any more.  In fact, I couldn’t even before Carolyn arrived, and so now I’m doubly unable to keep up.  Hopefully the FAQ will help, just a bit.  Thanks for your collective understanding.

This is truly excellent: arbitrary-element hovering in IE/Win.  In other words, stuff like pure CSS menus and such can actually be used in real-world designs, thus reaping the benefits of dramatically reduced markup weight.  The approach the behaviors take reminds me a lot of what we did to get the Netscape DevEdge menus working in IE/Win, except we did it in JavaScript, which may have made our technique a little weightier on the back end.  Either way, they’re both excellent solutions.

There’s a lot more gold to mine in the behaviors/script/structural markup vein, I suspect; the melding of IE-specific behaviors with lightweight scripts and CSS could lead us to a great many advances in standards-oriented design.  While it would be nice to see IE advancing so that we didn’t need these kinds of solutions, at least they exist.  Here’s my short, off-the-cuff wishlist for things for which we can hopefully use behaviors to replicate CSS2 functionality:

  • Support for generated content; counters would be a truly awesome bonus
  • Fixing the box model in versions of IE previous to IE6
  • Better (read: more smoothly scrolling) support for fixed-position elements and fixed-attachment backgrounds than current scripts provide

I think there’s a way to use behaviors to get alpha-channel support in PNGs, too.  Can anyone confirm that?  If not, it’s something to investigate.

Now on to slightly more surreal matters.  Sure, I’m fairly well known as an expert in CSS and Web standards, and some of you know that I do a weekly Big Band-era radio show, but how many of you were aware of my career as a shoe designer?  Doug Bowman wrote to let me know that Matt Haughey had spilled the beans, so I’ll own up to it here.

Okay, not really.  But if you go to the Medium Footwear site, wait for the Flash interface to load, hit “Collections,” and then click anywhere on the splash page, you’ll see—and I swear that, like Dave Barry, I am not making this up— the Eric Meyer Collection.  There are nine different models, and the really funny punchline to the whole affair is this: guess which of those shoe styles I like enough to consider buying?  As it turns out, the “Structuralist” design.  Seriously.

Building Blocks

Imagine my surprise to discover that an off-hours bit of work done with a couple of colleagues got a mention in the mainstream press.  XFN, which seems to be spreading through the blog world and is generating some very good feedback, was mentioned in a Seattle Times article titled “Social networking beginning to take shape on the Web.”  I’m amused that years upon years of work on CSS, which is arguably a cornerstone of the modern Web, netted me (so far as I know) exactly zero newspaper coverage, while something to which I made minor contributions merited ink within a month of its launch.

With that article still fresh in my mind, I received something like my fourth or fifth invitation to join LinkedIn, which was mentioned in the very next paragraph after the bit about XFN.  Since I’m rather interested in social networking technologies these days, I decided to set up an account and experiment a bit—do some compare-and-contrast between LinkedIn and XFN, from a user’s point of view.  It’s interesting, but I’m not sure I quite grasp the point of it.  Are links intended solely to deliver prospective clients to vendors?  Or is it supposed to be a way to show who you know, and thus who they know, and so on?  For myself, I’ve decided to limit my connections to people with whom I’ve had some contact professionally.  So if you’re a member and want to invite me, go ahead.

One of the people I did invite to link to me is George Nemeth, Cleveland-based superblogger extraordinaire.  I dropped by his site to see what he’s talking about, and spotted a link to a LEGO® recreation of M. C. Escher’s Relativity.  The same people also did Ascending and Descending, and a few others besides.  Color me impressed!  From there, I visited some other LEGO®-sculpture sites, finding at one point a really large model of a stegosaur, which was even more impressive, both from a sheer achievement point of view as well as a testament to the amount of free time some people have available.  And check this out: the guy who came up with a model of the Nebuchadnezzar, a mostly working badger, and a whole bunch of other LEGO® sculptures besides, lives right here in Cleveland.

Like how I came full circle with that one?

Turning Points

As the calendar turns to another year, I’ve reached a major goal.  I just now finished writing the preface and dedication for the second edition of Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, which means that the primary writing is fully and completely done.  Some chapters have already been through technical review, copyedit, and author review, and are moving through production.  Others are queued up for me to deal with in the next several days.  So it looks very much like we should be able to put the book on shelves, and into your hands, before summer gets underway.  This is, for me, a major relief.

As for the sequel to Eric Meyer on CSS, that’s suffered some setbacks due to Carolyn’s arrival, so I’m not sure when it will be finished and published.  Half the projects are already written, and the sixth has the working files all set up.  That leaves just a few more to write.  I’m hoping to get them finished before January is done, but I’m feeling less and less optimistic about meeting that goal.  We’ll see what happens.

Speaking of Carolyn, she’s suffering through her first cold, so we stayed home last night.  There are certainly worse ways to spend a New Year’s Eve than with your wife, new daughter, and a home-cooked meal.  We didn’t even bother to watch the ball drop, although the shouted countdowns from our various neighbors let us know exactly when the new Gregorian year began.

As Kat and I lay in bed last night, Carolyn miserably gurgling and wheezing between us, I kept saying to myself, “It’s just another day.”  There was something about the change to 2004 that hit me hard, a realization that this is the first year in which Mom has always been dead.  Throughout 2003, even though she was gone, she’d been a part of that year.  When that last digit changed, artificial though the division of time might be, there was suddenly a sense that I was farther away from Mom, that I’d crossed a boundary that was suddenly like a wall between us.

But it is, in the end, just another day.  Mom doesn’t have to be any further away from me than she was yesterday, or the day before.  She is always as close as I choose to allow, as close as my memories of her will permit.

January 2004
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