Friday, October 28, 2005

A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows, the latest book in George R.R. Martin's epic, tragic fantasy saga Song of Fire and Ice is out Nov. 8. So the big question for me is ... print or audio? At this point, I don't know if I'd have time for either option, particularly with the latest Wheel of TIme book having just been released...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Snap, Crackle, Pop

I finally recorded Radio Active #19 last night, only to discover (after an hour's worth of work) that 80% of it was useless because of horrendous crackling line noise. I don't know why that happened -- I'd used my USB headset with the PowerBook before without any problems, and yet last night everything was fubar'd.

Argh. So I guess tonight I'll have to experiment with using the headset on the ol'iBook. If all else fails, I guess I can just use the build-in mic for the PowerBook; the quality won't be that great, but at least it'll work.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

XML Nanny

Want to validate that pesky XML, but don't want to go online to do it? Then check out XML Nanny, a Mac-based (sorry Windows people) validator. From their Web site: "XML Nanny is a Free Mac OS X developer tool that provides an Aqua interface for checking XHTML and XML documents for Well-Formedness and Validity either locally or across the network."


Monday, October 24, 2005

Designing Web Usability

In preparing for an upcoming redesign at work (as well as Nuketown's on makeover), I've been re-reading many of my classic usability texts. This weekend focused on Jakob Nielson's Designing Web Usability, which is one of the best books focusing on what makes a site work ... and what makes it fail.

The book dissects what makes for good page and site design, including consistant primary navigation, bread crumbs, "See Also" links, and much more. Unfortunately, he doesn't delve into some subjects that i could really use, such as effective form design, the usefulness of persistant secondary navigation, and approaches to data validation.

It's a good read, but I couldn't help but wish that this 1999 edition had been updated. Six years is a long time, all the more so on the internet, where we've experienced the dot bomb and its aftermath, the explosion of broadband access, and the arrival of cool (and useful) new technologies like AJAX (which powers Google Maps. Still many of the lessons that were true in 1999 remain true now, and I still think it's worth reading. Nielson can occasionally sound like he's scribing God's word on tablets, but he backs up his proclamations with data from user testing, which makes it all tolerable.

All in all, if you're designing for the web, you need to read this book.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Frames Are Never the Answer

I've been using the basic version of Blackboard (online course software) at my day job, and I just want to say -- in case any Blackboard execs happen to stumble across this post -- frames on web sites are never the answer little camper!.

Oh sure, it seems like a good idea -- you get easy persistant navigation, and you can trap other pages within your frame set but a) you lose the ability to book mark pages (unless you're careful, which Blackboard is not) and b) sites were not meant to be trapped within frame sets. THey look like crap, they're hard to navigate and oh, you can't bookmark them.

So remember folks, if someone ask you if you want frames ... you say no!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Web Apps with Tiger: Getting Started

A useful article on how to get OS X's preinstalled versions of Apache and PHP running on your Mac under Tiger. For those looking for more current versions of both, check out this article, which details installing Apache 2 and PHP 5.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yes, there is another...

For a long time, I've been searching for another geek tree. And I finally found one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Keychain Weirdness

I rebooted my PowerMac for the first time in a few weeks and when it came back up again, Mac OS X was demanding access to the "System" keychain. Weird, but I figured some update must have happened that required an update to Keychain. So I entered my password -- the password I use for all of the system stuff on that machine -- and it told me I was wrong.

In all these years of using Macs, I've never had one do that (well, not when I knew the password was right). I'm tempted to delete the keychain file and let it rebuild it but a) it's for Airport, and doing that may fubar my wireless connection b) I'm not sure if anything bad will happen when I do that and c) it doesn't appear to be affecting anything. The Mac can still join the wireless network, and isn't throwing any other errors. Rather than be hasty, I'm going to chat with a few Mac folks at work tomorrow (one of the many great things about my new job is that most of the people I work with are Mac people) to see if they can think of a possible work around.

It's an annoying error, but better than the ones I'm seeing on my wife's Viao, which spontaneously decides to freeze up while running on battery power.

Ugh. A geek's work is never done.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Poison-Crafters of Obsidian Bay

After one gaming session in which my players decided to go looking for poison with which to subdue a wizard who'd been polymorphed into a wand of wonder-wielding monkey (it's a long story, but you can read it here ) I decided to do a write-up on "The Poison-Crafters of Obsidian Bay". It offers a run down of the more legitimate poison-crafters in the Free City.