Archive for the Category Rants


YUI CSS Kicks Ass

I was looking for a color picker widget over at Yahoos YUI site. I have been there before mostly to watch the videos on Javascript. Douglas Crockford is obviously the man when it comes to Javascript.

Anyway, I saw a link for a video on YUI’s CSS component and I was just a little bit interested. I though it was probably just another CSS reset. There was some vague promise of Grids and I couldn’t imagine how they could make that easy so I still didn’t think it looked promising.

Wow was I wrong. If you haven’t seen this then you need to go check it out. Nate Koechley and crew have done a seminal piece of CSS work here. Here are the highlights:

  • They provide a reset for all styles and fonts in all major browsers, including IE6. You are leveraging all the cross browser testing done by Yahoo
  • Everything (fonts, boxes etc) is sized with em’s or percentages of em’s so the entire page will scale gracefully for 508C
  • The Grids can be nested. You can do 2, 3 or 4 columns in a variety of width ratios (e.g. 2 columns: 1/4, 3/4 )
  • Its really simple to use

At work we have struggled with CSS. We don’t have a full time web designer to work for us. So the devs do all the html & css. I’m fairly handy with this sort of thing but have no where near enough time to produce the level of product that you can get with YUI. Other devs have even less patience for this sort of thing. For us this make a whole lot of sense.

We are really sensitive to the semantic markup of the page and the use of em’s for 508C support. We want it to be nice to use not just live up to the letter of some spec. I started using em’s when we first did the style sheet but I was about to give up because it was getting so difficult to use. Now its going to be easy to provide the kind of experience and cross browser compatibility that I have wanted all along.

Just go to Yahoo’s home page and increase the font size. Look at how smoothly that works and realize how hard that is to set up. Now realize you can do that to your site and still get work done faster than before. Your developers can pick this up in an hour or two and start building better stuff.

Cooky TV Output Stuff

I use my TV as a second monitor, its connected via component cable to my GeForce 6600GT. It’s been doing some weird stuff when full screen apps take over the TV display. When one of these apps exists the TV display looks torn at the top, like the resolution or refresh rate isn’t quite right. Nothing I have done seems to fix the problem.

Full screen video always works fine and always fills the televisions entire screen, these apps don’t seam to be the problem. Quitting from Media Center will cause the tearing as will any full screen game. To restore the screen the simplest thing to do is run the ‘TV Wizard’.

I can’t seem to phrase a search for this issue in less than 6 words. If you know where I should post a bug or can get help post a comment.

iTunes May Suck but DRM Sucks More

I can no longer launch iTunes on my machine. It crashes on startup. I haven’t bothered to try any dirty tricks to make it work yet because I know its broken. I upgraded to 5.0 and Apple is saying its windows testing department isn’t that great and missed some sort of major bug that corrupts your library.

This really is too bad, I’ve been using iTunes and an iPod since Christmas trying to really evaluate iTunes as a replacement for Winamp. iTunes does some things well but not well enough to be stellar. Take party shuffle, that could be a killer feature, it could be some sort of kiosk mode that lets people at a party choose music without disrupting what’s playing. Instead its just a randomised playlist filter.

iTunes does not support the level of customisation I have come to expect from Winamp. You can’t write plugins for it. The scripting interface is there but you can’t build GUI components that integrate into iTunes itself. If they had some sort of widgets (DHTML + JavaScript) plugin architecture that would have been much, much cooler.

Then there is the DRM. I bought a few songs in the iTunes music store. Its convenient in so far as I can get a song quickly IF its offered by Apple. Its inconvenient for me in some major ways. I don’t like the idea that I am responsible for backing up my purchased music. I bought the rights to that song, if I loose my copy I should be able to get it back by logging in and pressing the sync button. I have already lost one purchased song when I moved my library from one place to another.

The other major problem is the player. You can only play that music in iTunes. Right now iTunes isn’t working so I can’t play the music and I’m stuck waiting for a patch. The player, the DRM and the store are separate entities in the digital music equation. If the DRM was built as a plugin then I could buy music from any store and play that music in my player of choice. This is as it should be, CD’s work in every CD player. DRM music wont be widely successful until DRM content plays everywhere. And I’m not talking about Microsoft’s bogus “Plays for Sure” campaign. It only plays on Microsoft gadgets and in the Microsoft player. It doesn’t play on Winamp, it doesn’t play on an iPod or on a Mac.

In short the only plays for sure scheme is MP3. MP3 is the technology that beat the CD. It traded some sonic fidelity for more flexibility and I’m OK with that. In short my music is staying in MP3 format. It plays for sure on any player, portable device or operating system. I won’t buy DRM music that I cannot break and convert to MP3 as needed. In the end the only people that DRM hinders are paying customers. The pirates haven’t stopped and they have freedoms that currently cannot be bought at any price.

That’s a nice segue to a discussion on black markets but thats another show. Besides the latest episode of Diggnation just came in over BitTorrent and I’m gonna go watch it.


I build computers as a hobby and I fix friends computers as a courtesy. They often ask for advice but sometimes don’t listen. Others look at me funny when I say things like “Asus and Abit make good motherboards, for my money I don’t trust anyone else”. They have never heard of Asus or Abit and don’t know why they should pay $30 extra for a brand they have never heard of over some other brand they have never heard of. When I say that I have never heard of some particular brand you found a deal on its because it so small that it doesn’t even register on my radar. The reason I know these things is because I read hardware review sites daily and have done so for the past 6 years.

My Daily Reading:

[H]ard|OCP – The [H], as its known, is THE place for graphics card reviews. They have a particular methodology that is unique. They are also a great place for a daily dose of hardware and gaming related news. The forum is very active and covers hardware, modding and deals.

Anandtech – General hardware review site. Usually well written. Also covers industry trade shows. Good CPU reviews and comparisons.

Toms Hardware – Run by a German dentist. He knows his hardware and tests all sorts of kit. Covers trade shows, home networking, storage etc. Good motherboard reviews in particular.

Other places I check on occasion:

If you find some irresistible deal, and you have to ask if its any good, check these sites. If you cant find a review or a good word in any of the forums, steer clear. If I say I’ve never heard of it I just saved you lots of reading you didn’t want to do anyway.