phil wilson :: a geek commodity

1:27 PM

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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Interestingly here is Ben Goodger’s original plan for Firebird web panels (via Phil Ringnalda). Confirming my suspicions, this is definitely not what we see in the current Firebird release, despite the fact that web panels are on the current feature list.

In fact, web panels are currently only even marked as different from any other bookmark by a WEB_PANEL="true" attribute in the bookmarks.html file, meaning that you can’t target it properly. Hence, when I use one of the Netscape devedge sidebars as a web panel and click a link within it, which should update the page in the sidebar, it loads that link in the main browser window, despite a target="_self" attribute.

Web panels are explicitly not sidebars, and they need to be. I’ve heard rumours that code was backed out at the last minute, but delivering no feature at all would be better than delivering just half a feature. Instead of just being left looking forward to the next release, I’m really annoyed that what I’ve been told I’ll get (and what the feature list tells me I’m getting) isn’t really there and doesn’t really work.

12:23 PM

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Jeffry Zeldman has already written about it, and so it’s likely that anyone who would be interested will have already seen it, but iStock’s browse images by colour is truly impressive. Enter your colour, hit “View” and you’ll get royalty free images back, matching the colour you entered. I was surprised at just how good it is. That’s high praise.

12:21 PM

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A new, excellent site full of everything you wanted to know about browsers, CSS and javascript by the master of all three.

Also contains the gem that IE/Mac is a Bug ridden crash prone piece of junk.

At last.

After five months of hard work I proudly present

My new site contains more than 150 pages with technical information about
common and not so common browser incompatibility problems, both in CSS and
in JavaScript.

I added pages about the :not and :empty pseudo-classes, the relation of the
viewport to the HTML/CSS and JavaScript documents shown in it, the reasons
why Explorer 5.2 Mac is a bug ridden crash prone piece of junk, updated W3C
DOM compatibility tables, the reasons why Fahrner Image Replacement should
use JavaScript, and not CSS, and a short history of web development.

Finally I’m looking for JavaScript reporters. I’m trying to set up a
JavaScript news page, but I cannot possibly fill it on my own. If you’re
doing interesting JavaScript research, please write a page about it, fill
in my form and be published on my site.

Happy surfing

In amongst all these pages is an interesting Javascript alternative to the CSS-based Fahrner Image Replacement. After the recent ALA article on why we shouldn’t use the FIR (because it breaks screen readers), this is a welcome alternative, although it still needs hard testing of the kind ALA gave to the CSS version to make sure it works properly.

11:00 AM

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I’m a web developer and I test stuff locally, hence a lot of the time I’m looking at http://localhost.
I use Firebird as my default browser, which has keyword searching built into the address bar, so every time I go to localhost and my web app server is not running I get thrown to the highly classy

Fortunately this can be disabled.

Type “about:config” (without quotes) in the address bar. This will retrieve a list of all the available preferences for your browser. Type “keyword” (again without quotes) into the “filter” text box and hit <enter>.

In the returned list you should see a preference called “keyword.enabled”. Double-click this entry to bring up a box where you can change the value of the preference. Type “false” in the box and hit <enter>.

Voila keyword searching from the address bar has now been disabled (you might need to restart your browser). Things like the built in Quick Searches will still work, i.e. typing “google wellingtons” will still bring back search results about your favourite boots.

3:46 PM

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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Ha! That’ll teach me to not read around the subject! Marc has already written about the problems peopleaggregator has been having in picking up who is the main “Person” in a FOAF file. Of course, I already provide dc:creator and foaf:maker properties to associate my “Person” with the FOAF document, so there shouldn’t be any problem, but as Morten and Libby point out in the comments I should also be using foaf:topic (I didn't think this had been decided on as a method of specifying the author of an FOAF file, but there you go).

From what Marc says it looks like they’re not parsing the FOAF files with an RDF parser, but some kind of scraper to get the information out; they were looking for the first foaf:name element in the file and finding the main “Person” that way. Apart from using dc:creator, foaf:maker or foaf:topic inside the <rdf:Description rdf:about=""> element, they could use an algorithm similar to Morten’s Topic Finder which is A web service for guesstimating the primary FoaF “thing” described in an RDF/XML file.

3:11 PM

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BBC! Unified login! Now!

Jesus. I must have about ten logins for different parts of the BBC website, and I still need more. How fucking annoying is that? Can't they have some method of sharing username/passwords across the system? I have logins for the localised message boards, blogging system (which I now can't even find), iCan, Music meassageboards, and Christ knows what else - Celebdaq and all the other games probably all need individual logins.

3:10 PM

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To expand on my last post slightly, my actual RDF file expresses this (generated from the W3 RDF Validator): genid:ARP36325
genid:ARP36325                        “EGCC”
genid:ARP36325                        “MAN”

whereas my profile expresses this:

<ns3:Person rdf:ID="pip">
  <ns5:nearestAirport rdf:nodeID="bNode1"/> 
  [all my :knows statements from my RDF file here]

<ns4:Airport rdf:nodeID="bNode1">
   <ns8:acquaintanceOf rdf:nodeID="bNode12"/>
   <ns8:knowByRep rdf:nodeID="bNode10"/>
   <ns8:knowByRep rdf:nodeID="bNode11"/>
   [my manually entered details appear here]

and there doesn't seem to be any way of editing either individual triples or the file itself manually. Nor removing my current details and resetting my profile back to empty. Until I can, the emails I keep getting from Marc Canter asking me to set up relationships with people are going to be wasted effort, because whilst I can do it it's going to establish the relationships with an airport.

12:29 PM

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Monday, October 27, 2003

I’d like to be able to talk in glowing terms about – it has noble ideals and seems to be A Good Idea. I think they have some bugs to work on though – on first import, it thought I was Ben Hammersely (a fact which, I can assure you, as can Ben, is untrue).


And now, having cleared that up manually and having established some relationships, seems to believe that I am an airport, and that it is not I, but the airport which knows people. Most perplexing.

<ns4:Airport rdf:nodeID="bNode1">
   <ns8:acquaintanceOf rdf:nodeID="bNode12"/>
   <ns8:knowByRep rdf:nodeID="bNode10"/>
   <ns8:knowByRep rdf:nodeID="bNode11"/>
   <ns3:depiction rdf:resource=""/>
   <ns3:homepage rdf:resource=""/>
   <ns3:name>Phil Wilson</ns3:name>
   <ns3:schoolHomepage rdf:resource=""/>
   <ns3:weblog rdf:resource=""/>
   <ns3:workInfoHomepage rdf:resource=" web development"/>
   <ns3:workplaceHomepage rdf:resource=""/>

I’m also not sure what it’s done to my workInfoHompage property.

It’s only alpha code, but still – I thought we had working RDF parsers?

9:52 AM

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Friday, October 24, 2003

Google has a new feature, the “define” keyword


a person who may be very smart yet lacks the social graces of those who are considered cool , a “computer geek” is someone who spends too much time on the computer and has no social life.


11:44 AM

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Frustrated with not being able to use SVG in Firebirdfox (especially now that the GIMP has gone SVG and after reading about the Worst. Tag. Ever.), I finally decided to plough through the atrocity that is BugZilla’s user interface and came across the imaginatively titled: “Bugzilla Bug 133567: – M1RC3; Crash because Adobe SVG plugin used an unfrozen interface [@ nsLoadGroup::GetName] [@ nsHttpChannel::GetName] which changed its prototype”. Slowly reading through the comments it seemed there was no hope for me. Adobe had released their plugin with support for Mozilla, but against an unfrozen interface which had subsequently changed, hence, it didn’t work.

Fortunately, comment 66 came to the rescue:

———- Additional Comment #66 From Peter Sorotokin 2003-07-17 23:17———-

This bug and all related bugs were fixed in Adobe SVG Viewer v6 Preview Release (Windows only at the moment, but keep looking We no longer try to support Mozilla browser scripting.

So if you download and install the Adobe SVG Viewer 6 beta and copy the plugin files to your gecko plugins directory1 it should all Just Work. Well, it did for me, and it did for Jim.

1 copy the NPSVG6.* files from C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\SVG Viewer 6.0\Plugins to $GeckoDir$\plugins and restart the browser

11:24 AM

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Are you Dave Gorman?
Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack adventure

Dave Gorman is a very funny man. A stand-up comedian who for the last year or two has been busy telling stories. Even better, he’s been telling real-life stories; even better than that he’s been telling true stories about his own life (these all seem to frequently occur after a bottle of tequila). Although he makes a living from making us laugh whilst telling us of his high-jinks there’s also an extraordinary pathos to his shows – you know he means it.

Oh yeah, and he’s really funny. :) Go see his show. Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure is touring now and they give away free badges. What more could you want?

4:10 PM

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Monday, October 20, 2003

Everyone already knows about the excellent SimpleBits, and until recently I’d just been visiting every now and then to see how the SimpleQuiz series was progressing, but recently there have been two really great tutorials: Styling nested lists and Accessible Image Tab Rollovers which should be compulsory reading for anyone who writes web pages.


Love the design on SuperfluousBanter

Excellent XSLT FAQ

What’s your age relative to….?

5:21 PM

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Sunday, October 19, 2003

The top twenty-one books have been announced in the BBC’s The Big Read

Of that twenty-one, I’ve read twelve and have no particular desire to read the other nine. I must say though that it’s a pretty poor top twenty-one. I mean, “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman just isn’t that good. These lists are always so predictable. Maybe they should run it anually and not let any of the previous year’s top twenty-one enter; perhaps that way there’s a chance of seeing something else celebrated for a change.

My favourite, for the record, doesn’t appear on the list: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

1:18 AM

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I’ve written a lot tonight and it’s getting late, but to wrap up:

No Fishing – yes.
Semantics, HTML, XHTML, and Structure – this is excellent stuff for educating the unwashed masses of web developers who still think tables are the be-all and end-all and have no idea of how to mark up a page properly (at work we now have a web designer doing web development – my life just got harder).

1:14 AM

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Whenever I quote from other sites, I use code like this:

<blockquote cite="source url">Quoted Source</blockquote>

and then I use Simon Willison’s blockquote citations javascript to automatically generate a link to the page I’ve quoted from (which is the link that says “source” after the quote).

Of course, this slows down the writing a bit: copy the quote, paste into editor, put blockquote tags around it, add the URL for the cite element, copy all, paste into blog post. It doesn’t take long, but computers are meant to be good at doing this kind of thing themselves, right? There must be a better way.

After reading John Udell’s piece on Interactive Microcontent I’ve now got a piece of javascript that creates my code for me. I just highlight some text on a page, hit the “quote” shortcut in my links bar and voila my blockquoted-and-cited extract is ready for me to use.

Another ten seconds a day saved!

I've now updated this to pull out the current page title and insert this as the title attribute of the blockquote, which now gets displayed in the link to the source, hurrah!

12:54 AM

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Two Mozilla-related things I almost didn’t notice:

Both of these via David Baron’s blog

If ever you find yourself lacking something to do, just flick over to the list of weblogs and have a browse.

12:35 AM

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Finally is alive again for me to extract this quote from asa’s blog on August 3rd:

Web Panels is much more useful/versitile/practical than the old SeaMonkey sidebar. If you’re visiting a page that you want to hold onto for a few minutes you can just pres the “Grab Page” button and it pulls that page from the content area into the Web Panels sidebar. If it’s something really useful, like Gemal’s BlogUpdates or the “Post to Movable Type” pop-up, then you just “Grab” it and click “Add Web Panel”. That creates a bookmark for the page with a special flag that causes it to always open in the Web Panels sidebar. (You can set this flag on any bookmark by opening the bookmark’s properties and checking the box labeled “Load this bookmark in the Web Panels sidebar.”)

Asa also links to this screenshot of web panels (which I’ve copied to my own server in case goes down again) – “Open bookmark in sidebar” is not what I was expecting.

I know I’m whining like a bitch: Firebird is free! It’s standards compliant! It’s extensible! It’s open source! etc! but I like getting what I expect, and web panels is my final big want for Firebird, and I was really looking forward to getting it.

12:15 AM

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From the same site as the all-CSS box shadow comes a summary of the test results of IE6, Mozilla 1.5 and Opera 7.21 running through Eric Meyer’s CSS2 test suite.

I also really liked this hint from their archives:

In Mozilla you can hold down CTRL and click on a table cell on a web page. It will highlight it with a blue border. Keep CTRL down and click around to highlight other cells. Try dragging the mouse around as well. If you click near the top of the table, the entire table is lit up. I find it’s a great way to see where the cell boundaries are on a page. You might use it for debugging your own layouts.

12:07 AM

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Woo, completely CSS box shadow trick.

Except that the HTML behind it is goddamn awful of course. And IE is never ever going to support CSS3.

Where did I leave my tables again?

11:45 PM

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Saturday, October 18, 2003

About two months or more ago I decided to give up following that which is now named Atom. It was born with fire, energy and drive and had turned into mud debating what name it should have. Of all things.

At the beginning of October it was finally decided to call it Atom.

And now I want to know about whether it’s in RDF format (or very close) or not (I know that it was incredibly close at one stage, via a comment Aaron Swartz made somewhere).

The list of pages beginning with R on the wiki lists eight pages all about RDF, inlcluding one illuminatingly called No To RDF but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to get an answer from. Mark Pilgrim’s latest piece on about the Atom API appears to demonstrate that it’s not (Danny Ayers and Russell Beattie should be careful when reading the comments, they may need to turn a blogger off).

What do the RDF people have to say about this? I tried looking at Danny’s Atom weblog but I didn’t seem to get very far – I tried to go back to the first entry he made and work my way forward, but there doesn’t seem to be any way of accessing an archive index, and there’s no search functionality. I could trawl through mailing lists but there’s no guarantee that after several hours I’d have found the definitive answer, so I shan’t bother.

I know that Sjoerd Visscher wrote an XR transformation for Atom->RDF:

Sam Ruby made an XSLT tranformation from Atom to RDF. He said it was hard to do. On the #echo IRC channel I said that XR would probably make it a lot easier. Then Sam asked me to make an XR transformation that would do the same thing. I did, and here it is.

and I know that the latest spec is here but I am an RDF novice. The differences and difficulties need pointing out to me, on a postcard if you want.

Someone, anyone. I don't care how you get here, just, get here if you can.

11:26 AM

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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Well, having avoided it for as long as possible, preferring to use the Jena API, I now find myself having to know how to form RDQL queries. RDQL is an implementation of an SQL-like query language for RDF., and it’s also not actually that easy, especially if you’ve heard people say things like “It’s just SQL for RDF!” (which it may be in theory but in practice is completely different - RDQL has almost an arcane quality to it, appearing to the casual eye as akin to alchemists' symbols, but I digress).

Some of the tutorials I’ve dug out:

and it’s worth comparing two slides which perform the same query, one in RDQL and one on SQL.

There are also four public data repositories you can try your newly-learned skills on (including a museum repository and a a vCard repository).

11:08 AM

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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

ooooh look at a beta of the new site! Nice!

11:02 AM

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Firebird 0.7:

  • bugs have been fixed – good.
  • can’t spot any new bugs – good
  • bookmarks can be opened in the sidebar – good
  • can’t see web panels for the fucking life of me – bad.
10:34 AM

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Recent Roundup:

11:31 PM

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Saturday, October 11, 2003

FileZilla has been getting no little coverage in the blogging world over the last few days by being featured in not only Mark Pilgrim’s linklog but also on Erik Thauvin’s daily roundup.

Shortly after I started working for iBase, about twelve months ago, I realised that all FTP activity between ourselves and clients (and there’s a surprising amount) was being done via command-line (and of course most clients had no idea what was going on). I instantly recommended FileZilla and we’ve been using as our FTP client of choice ever since. It’s a great piece of software; not just because it’s free, but also because it’s easy to use.

Use FileZilla, kids!

12:52 PM

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Thursday, October 09, 2003

Use CVS ? Use CVS2RSS to keep track of changes to your code? Moving your repository over to Subversion ? You’ll be wanting svnlog then.

It’s an eXSLT that transforms subversion (svn) log XML files into vaild RSS 2.0 feeds. Get it here.
It shows revision number and author in the RSS’s title; commit message, date and changed files in the description. There are some goodies in there, like links to the changed files and expansion of the file’s status. If you need a RSS feed for your Subversion repository, have a look.

9:09 AM

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Depressing (but interesting) stuff.

Original story on Green Fairy

(via Hanging Day)

9:55 AM

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Monday, October 06, 2003

I promise this is my one and only foray into LiveJournal-isms, but it has to be said:

Getting up in the morning sucks.

12:24 PM

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Friday, October 03, 2003

FOAFer (via Haiko) is a new online FOAF-viewer with a great deal of potential. It sees very simple FOAF files very clearly (example) but doesn’t display all the available data from mine and all it picks out of Danny’s FOAF file is that Ideagraph is a project!

Still, it’s always good to see new FOAF apps popping up!

I wonder what’s being used to read in the RDF?

11:57 AM

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Fortunately I clearly don’t have any readers who are very interested in table-cell, because if I had, they’d have torn me to pieces on my post about how it does work in IE.

Because it doesn’t.

Steve Clay wisely pointed out that my example works in IE because it incorrectly honours the width that I set on the spans, thus making it only look as though table-cell actually works.

If I modify my example so that the first cell doesn’t have a set width and contains multiple lines of text, the other cells which are meant to be on the same row are clearly moved down instead of staying where they are. See what I mean here.

I apologise and hold myself up as a victim of IE’s crapness.

1:08 PM

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I meant to blog about this when I first read it at the beginning of last month, but I kept forgetting.

Yoz’s CSS blogwank rant includes a genius solution (read: hack/workaround) for a problem I was having centring my content on If you care about CSS, go and read it.

11:10 AM

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More Mozilla/RDF -related links:

A result of not doing stuff is that when I come across things like this is that I don’t even know if I’ve blogged about them before. *kicks self*

10:54 AM

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After all that “I wrote about the book of Salam Pax: The Baghdad Blog I find via a link to Salam’s other book Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi.

There’s no real description of what the book is about, so I assume it’s the same as “The Baghdad Blogger”, but with a stupider title. Interestingly, listing all books on written by Salam Pax only returns that one book whilst the same search on returns both “The Clandestine Diary” and “The Baghdad Blog”, although the former doesn’t seem to actually be available. I’d like to know what the difference between these books is, especially seeing as the “The Baghdad Blog” is published by Guardian Books and “The Clandestine Diary” is by Grove Press.

Anyway, spurious mulling aside, when I arrived in Italy, it turned out that my girlfriend had bought “The Baghdad Blog” after I’d explained what it was to her (she knows about blogs), so on one particularly balmy night I set down to read it.

It’s very very weird reading something in print, in a ‘proper’ book which you’ve already read online, something I also experienced when reading the dead-tree format of Sluggy Freelance (an online comic that I used to read when I had that now-rare commodity “free time”).

Still, it’s an excellent read, even if you read it online at the time (as I did). It’s especially interesting reading it with the benefit of hindsight and the continuing trouble. I think here is the point to make an in-depth and penetrating comment about the war, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

10:51 AM

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I've spent a lot more time recently (i.e. the last month or so) talking, rather than doing. This has to change. I have plenty of projects I want to work on, time to focus.

9:58 AM

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On Saturday 24th September Yahoo upgraded their messenger service, meaning (afaik) that all users had to download the lastest client from the Y! Messenger website. I use Y! IM, but through Jabber. The upgrade broke the transport. There’s now a fix to the transport to work with the new authentication scheme.

Yahoo Messenger Jabber Transport website

The updated version is only in CVS at the moment, but with any luck this means the slow reconnection of Jabber users to their Yahoo accounts.