May 2008 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

  1. January
  2. February
  3. March
  4. April
  5. May
  6. June
  7. July
  8. August
  9. September
  10. October
  11. November
  12. December

Mozilla Funding HTML5 Accessibility Research (29th May 2008)

My grant proposal to research present-day HTML was accepted by Mozilla last week. Took 3 months of trying until I found somewhere who’d put their money where their mouth was.

The work is along very similar lines to Collections of Interesting Data Tables, which I did last year for free. Idea is to collect real pages from the web, figure out what authors are doing, then make this stuff work better. Where it’s too messed up to work better, help HTML5 make the right markup simpler and more obvious so authors can get it right more easily.

Ian Hickson was very receptive to this style of research last year. His description of what helped gives me a good idea of what to focus on this time around. Basically, same as last time but don’t bother about retrofitting simulations. He’s offered to provide lists of URLs and similar data.

Areas I’ll probably study include but are not limited to:

The grant will cover about 500 hours of work. Completion date is 1st December 2008.

GTA4 Modding Banned? (25th May 2008)

A GTA Forums topic, Regarding IV, effectively bans all worthwhile modding of the game.

(Expletives deleted.)

Guess I jumped ship at the right time. Modding communities have been instrumental to the success of GTA, particularly in the early years. DMA Design understood this. Rockstar Games never seemed to accept that, let alone embrace it.

GTA modding is now a dead end. It could have been like Unreal Tournament and other massively successful, highly moddable multiplayer games. That opportunity has been rejected, it seems.

The curtness of illspirit’s message makes me think he’s as upset about this as I am.

Extinction of Stone Age Blog IA (22nd May 2008)

At the moment, my blog has one page per month. Every entry from that month appears on that page and nowhere else. Putting each entry on its page and on the page for that month is optimal. That isn’t what I’ve do because this site is static HTML with some very badly written PHP wrapped around it.

But this blog is getting more people reading entries. People who are usually technically adept. It’s time to bite the bullet.

The blog archive page is now generated from a very rough PHP script. When I make an update I run the script. It finds the folders and pages, then produces HTML lists of links for them. These are written to the archives.html file.

This model provides updates when I need them without being run on every page view. I edit my pages in a text editor with a file and directory structure to organise them as before.

To get started, I’ve split up the January 2003 entries into separate pages and updated the index pages. Manually. None of this has gone live, it’s just to see what markup and organisation I like best. Think I’ve got it how I like it, though.

Next step is to automate the splitting and apply run through the rest of 2003. I’ll probably hack something together in VB6 to do this specific task.

Why not use an off-the-shelf, open-source, database-driven blogging system? Getting neat HTML into them seems like a pain compared to a text editor and FTP client.

Bicycle Tune-up and Short Ride (19th May 2008)

Dad helped me loosen the sticking pedal on my bicycle today. None of the sockets would fit into the casing. So he wedged a screwdriver in and twisted the pedal to make the adjustment.

He also adjusted the rear bearings, which had worked loose over time. We refitted the rear mudguard whilst at that end.

I lubricated the pedals and then took it for a short ride. Went around the short woodland route a few times, then rode around the long route once. Is running much smoother now.

Next step is figuring out how to set the brakes properly. Front brake does almost nothing, even pulling it really hard. Rear brake does a bit more but squeaks badly. If you know of a good guide to this, with pictures or diagrams, please contact me.

Windows XP SP3 (11th May 2008)

There are loads of fixes in Service Pack 3. My machine probably has a lot of them from Windows Update but I imagine a significant number are new.

Time to jump through hoops and then wait for Windows Update.

Sight City 2008 Notes & Experiences (10th May 2008)

Created from my 14.5 pages of A5 notes. Please contact me about corrections, additions and deletions. Updated on 17th May 2008.


Mozilla arranged paid for my travel to Sight City 2008. Certain expenses will be reinbursed if I claim them, which I intend to do. It was an exhibition for AT developers, retailers and users in Frankfurt, Germany. It ran from Wednesday 7th May to Friday 9th May.

Mozilla were there to promote accessibility improvements in Firefox 3, along with various initiatives they sponsor through grants. People at the booth were:

We had a table, two chairs and a pinboard for mounting posters.

6th May 2008

London Departures

Steve Lee

Frankfurt Arrivals

Marco Zehe & Gijs Kruitbosch

Käfers oder Käfer


7th May 2008


Commute to Sheraton Hotel

Setting Up

The fire exit has a sign mounted on it. It depicts someone tripping over a low obstacle. In front of the exit is a low radiator. The sign is titled clockwise by several degrees. The possibility of this sign being tilted because the person mounting it tripped over the hazard the sign is supposed to stop people tripping over was so delightfully ironic I had to share it with Gijs. He also enjoyed it, which speaks volumes about our personalities.

Quantum Technology

Deaf-Blind German with Assistant

Ergra Low Vision

ZoomText from Ai Squared


Danish Man

Blind Man with Bored Dog

German Translater

Fine Blonde Non-techy

Brunette German Woman

Rich, the Freelance Windows Developer

Wiki Markup Nitpicking with Steve

Accerciser Demo from Steve

Left Booth

Back to Käfers oder Käfer

8th May 2008

Shower Surprise

Sighted German Man

Polish Group

Long-haired German Man

Opticians from Germany

Mixed Age Software Developers

Norwegian AT Retailers

Accessibility of Add-ons


Gijs’s Pupil Detection Demo

German Mother

3 German Students

Freedom Scientific Visit

Hardware Developer

3 Excited German Students

Trainee Instructor for Blind People

Teacher for Vision Impaired

Guinea Pig Interlude

Paul, the Mouthy Northern AT Developer

Gorgeous Greek Woman from PAB

Paul, the Story Continues

2 Blind Women with Man Assistant

Friendly Couple

Acapela Text-to-Speech Developer

Big Group

Smiley Oriental Exhibitor

Smiling, Talkative Dad with Wife & Young, Partially Sighted, Daughter


Strolling Around

Baum Screen Reader

Bald German Assistant with Blind Man

Assistant with Glasses and Blind Man

Return to Käfers oder Käfer

9th May 2008


University of Karlsruhe

Yellow Background with 3 Dots

Fruhsoft (I think this is mistranscribed)

Pamphlet Spam

German Radio Interview for Marco

Freedom Scientific

Gijs’s Blog

Steve at Work

German Man Reports Firefox Crashes

Pleasant Busy German Lady

Awesome Bar not truely Awesome?

Leaving Gijs and Marco

Nagging Steve about the Awesome Bar

Frankfurt Departures

Heathrow Arrivals


Spent the weekend depressurising. Following week was spent blogging this.