Tim Hatch

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Almost Heading Back 27 Nov, 2004

We’re finishing up things here before we head home tomorrow (yay, just in time for my music presentation), and here’s probably the last pictures I will post from this trip. Jonathan and Sam are playing the Star Trek CCG, which I was briefly hooked on myself (they now sit in a pile of notebooks in the closet).

Jonathan Sam

I Threw Away Your Shaq CDs 26 Nov, 2004

I have more projects right now than time to implement things. Even as I plan the next incarnation of timhatch.com, I have so many other things I'm trying to do. I got a book on Cocoa, so of course I want to do some things for the Mac.

My first experience is kind of a "wow, this is huge" when reading about the foundation classes available to Cocoa programs written in Objective-C. At first the syntax is really confusing (esp. the use of "message" where "selector" seems to fit more naturally...and of course there is something else called a selector.

So, without further adieu, here they are (as much for my reference as for any of the fives of people who actually read this).

  • Publish experiments thus far
    • Javascript build-as-you-go total calculator script for a shopping cart
    • TinyValidator & PHP/PCRE XML Parser (supports quite a bit of DOM1)
    • RSS Framework 1.0 (coupled with preg_match_all, allows you to change just a couple of lines and make your own screenscraper rss feed)
    • Crossfading Photo Gallery (after fixing the javascript-but-not-css issue with ie5.2/mac)
  • Neuros Sync Manager for OS-X
    • Supporting queueing
    • Editing of the queue as it transfers
    • The ability to pause a sync to continue later if it's taking too long
  • Javascript XHTML Validator
    • Shouldn't be too hard. I already implemented an XML parser in PHP using only PCRE, which are reasonably portable. Add in a bit of Safe HTML DTD, and stir.
  • Image Viewer for OS-X
    • Why? iPhoto is too slow for me. I also don't like the way it resizes images (and rotates them, lossy). I want to implement this so it can hook into iPhoto, rather than replace it, and use the Lanczos3 resize algorithm (maybe borrow this from AviSynth), and cache decoded jpegs on disk in advance, for speed.
  • Cross Platform DJ App
    • Supporting Windows, OS-X, and Linux. I'm unsatisfied with the way Winamp and iTunes seem to leave out the possibility of remote broadcasting or presynching (on a separate sound channel) before actually playing. In fact, iTunes only lets one instance run which makes it impossible to prequeue things if you want to hear them first.

A Million, A Billion, A Trillion Stars 26 Nov, 2004

Title taken from the Luna song Lovedust.

Vacation report: now in lubbock. The altitude or something else about the air doesn’t like me. I can't read four pages without acquiring a headache, which will greatly hinder my ability to come up with 5 minutes’ worth of material on Monteverde’s Orfeo for Monday.

Here’s a photo of me chilling out while conducting a slideshow of the “best of” the Virginia trip (1322 pictures to sort through) without any prior warning. Macs rule.

Chillin With My Powerbook

My parents got a new camera over the weekend. Of course, it has to take better pictures than mine. It's some sort of unwritten rule. Its native resolution is 6 megapixels, which is ~3x what mine is. It's one of the recent Fuji's, and seems to solve most (not quite all) of my complaints with my older-generation Fuji camera.

First, they now advertize the "native" resolution, rather than the SuperCCD-interpolated one. Second, the turn-on and picture-to-picture delay are something around 1 second, compared to mine which can go up to 10 seconds in some extreme instances. They added burst modes that take better advantage of the buffer, and fixed a number of whitebalance issues (the pic above was taken with it, which contains two different types of flourescent, plus a rear-projection tv as the primary sources).

Summary of things which need to be done in the very near future:

  • Finish the DCLA updates
  • Powerpoint + script for 5 minutes of Orfeo dissection
  • Get started on the PSCI essay due a week from Monday

An here's some I just want to do for fun (to keep me sane)

  • An rss feed for the Kings of Convenience forums
  • Commenting to work on this site
  • Get my Powerbook repaired
  • Get my Neuros repaired
  • Get some better styles so list items aren't quite so lame

Farewell, Andreas 16 Nov, 2004

Today, Andreas Berg had his senior recital. I knew him from History Since 1865 (Honors), which was one of the more interesting classes I’ve had, especially discussing the social systems of the US vs Europe. Here’s what he had to say as his last words:

“I’d like to thank my family, who couldn't be here tonight due to a little, um, commuter issue. It's gonna be really hard to say goodbye to my friends (that are here), but I’m gonna see you again someday in musicland.”

We’ll miss you. Best of luck.

Jazz Ensemble Guitar Solo

Texas BEST 13 Nov, 2004

I'm here at Texas BEST, today at SMU in Dallas. This is the regional competition one level above DC BEST (who sadly has no real website at the moment).

Wow is it loud in this little coliseum. There's wood paneling everywhere, and nothing to dampen the noise, so everything not only reverberates but it just amplifies itself.

Texas BEST

Mozilla Firefox Start Page 11 Nov, 2004

I should preface this with the disclaimer, I don't hate Google. I love their search engine. I’m not picking them because they’re a BigCo (although I think they are) or because it's “easy” like bashing Microsoft's web design principles (excusable because they have a big site, unlike this single page). I noticed something that doesn’t jive and I'm simply documenting the problem and offering a fix, so I feel it’s being constructive.

I installed Firefox 1.0 at the office, and saw a checkbox at the end of the installation called “Use Firefox Start as my Homepage.” Sure, I thought, why not? Well, it turns out that it’s not Firefox Start, it’s Firefox Start at Google.

While I don’t see the connection directly, I did see that the page looked kind of trendy, and I was sure it used CSS. Then I disabled stylesheets and everything fell apart. It felt like a table. A table with lots of presentational images.

Any assumption of a css-based design was firmly disspelled as I started manually prettyprinting the html code. I don’t have the dissected code with me at the moment, so I just ran it through HTML Tidy to make it somewhat presentable. This is part of the result:

Tables, Tables, Everywhere

This is just a small part of the page. There are 11 tables total, nested as far as three levels deep at one point. Am I the only one that finds it ironic that the browser with the best standards support is reduced to rendering table soup? (In Quirks mode, no less!)

So I set out to rectify the situation. Here’s what I came up with:

SizesBeforeAfter
Number of Images115
Number of 1x1 Spacer Gifs10
Size of HTML (uncompressed)4.3 KiB3.2 KiB
Size of Everything Combined23.2 KiB15.0 KiB
Display with Images DisabledIckyNice

Of course, the “Images Disabled” one is subjective, so I’ll let you see for yourself in a second. To prove the figures I used, check my version and Google’s Version (edited to point to relative paths to images...filesize remained constant). Here are screencaps of them in case you don’t care about the code itself. I won’t claim that the pages are identical, nor pixel-perfect — take it as a proof-of-concept of how things could be done, given the original source files. (Would you believe I can’t find an alpha-transparent version of the new firefox logo?)

Google's Version My Version

All of these images (except light.gif [ripped from the original] and firefox3b.png [tweaked from an existing logo]) were created from scratch in Photoshop, using the real version as a template for dimensions and colors. They were then exported as PNGs, and run through pngcrush and pngquant to reduce the filesize to something more manageable.

But what if the user has images disabled? Does it flow the same, and does it make sense? I’ll let you judge for yourself (be sure to enlarge the images)

Google's Version With Images Replaced with their Alt Text My Version With Images Replaced with their Alt Text

Mine only has one image, which has a null alt tag (it’s the Firefox logo in the upper right, I figured once I made the heading “real,” that I certainly didn’t need it reading "Firefox Start Page/Firefox Logo/Firefox Logo" (unlike the original), and gave it no alt text. I don’t know what’s up with the doubled "Firefox Logo" text — unless I’m mistaken, that’s kind of a no-no.1

While I am impressed with the smooth gradient on the text “Firefox Start” in Google’s version, I think it’s largely unnecessary. The page can be a lot smaller without it, and at least this way it matches the user’s antialiasing settings.

Conclusion

A number of odd design decisions were made on Google’s part in the creation of this page. I’d just be happy if it didn’t have images-of-text, personally.

Conspiracy theories abound about how Google is possibly going to cobrand some part of Mozilla and make GBrowser...but hopefully the homepage of that browser will take advantage of standards as much as the Mozilla homepage does.

If anyone from Google wants to open a dialogue about why this page was designed the way it is, I’m definitely open to it. The markup in my example is released to the publid domain with no warranty.

Footnotes

  1. What To Avoid ... Using the same “alt” text for an image when it appears several times on a page. If it is repeated, consider using a null value on all but the first instance of it. For example, alt="". This way a screen reader will ignor the repeated image making the page less cluttered for the screen reader user to listen to.

    http://www.rnib.org/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_alttext.hcsp

AASP 09 Nov, 2004

Wouldn't it be more fun if it used proper grammar and said “an asp”?

AASP Sign

Links 2004-11-09 09 Nov, 2004

As a UI designer, I would argue that even if a small percentage of my users did want more control, I should probably ignore them. And that's just another way of saying that superfluous power may sometimes have to submit to overall simplicity.

via Jeff Veen

Can’t Sleep 08 Nov, 2004

So I’m stuck awake, nobody is around to talk on ICQ, so what do I do? I code an RSS feed for each of a number of random blogs that I might check at some later date. Doesn’t everyone do that when they can’t sleep?

In other news, I conquered my 5 page “small” paper for PSCI (note to self: quit taking the honors sections of these classes), and finally found my copy of “First Nights” to do my initial reading for my team’s presentation on Monteverdi’s Orfeo in several weeks.

I got the grade back for my German oral presentation, for which I had chosen Fury in the Slaughterhouse. I got a 29/30 (not bad considering I only ran through it in its entirety once...), and it’s available for download with all assets (relative linking was used, so it should all work once extracted).

fury_presentation.zip

This site also has an RSS feed, for those that are interested - it’s only listed through autodiscovery of link tags, so here’s a regular link: Full Posts in RSS 2.0.

Actual Conversation From Today 04 Nov, 2004

This is an actual conversation which took place earlier today. No chimpanzees were harmed in the creation of this post.

Hatch, Timothy (2:10:43 PM):
especially when it involves hats as weird as that one
Tarvin, Kate (2:10:50 PM):
my hat is not weird.
Tarvin, Kate (2:10:53 PM):
its just colorful
Tarvin, Kate (2:10:58 PM):
and the colors make you uncomfortable
Hatch, Timothy (2:10:59 PM):
now you're typing all slow. better retest..
Tarvin, Kate (2:11:05 PM):
wah.
Tarvin, Kate (2:21:27 PM):
retard/

I would like the record to note that at least I didn’t hit a slash on the way to the enter key...

Web Developer Checklist, Redux 04 Nov, 2004

In followup to the first Web Developer Checklist, this is part two containing updated links to more helpful resources. In a way, this is where I’m keeping my bookmarks, so I don’t have to worry when we reghost, and also so other people have access to them. Kind of lame, but oh well.

Title Separator Glyphs Revisited 04 Nov, 2004

In response to a recent post on wg, I have been experimenting with various separator glyphs for my site (and COBA). In the end, I settled on Page Name (Site Name), if only for the reason that it shows up nicely in tabs/taskbar, and contains filesystem-legal characters so IE won't mess it up if you save the file.

If the page is more than one level “deep,” it might be appropriate to use a style more like Page Name — Section Name (Site Name) to differentiate various sections, but still keep the page name within the visible “window.”