October 2007 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

No Visiting Fliss (31st October 2007)

Haven’t been over there since housesitting in July. I miss her.

Haircut 3.5 (31st October 2007)

Got my hair cut at the same place as Haircut 3.0 in July.

Buying Clothes is Easy (31st October 2007)

Don’t use the Web, just trot down to your local high street. They have really cool things called “shops”.

The user experience is like this:

  1. Enter the shop.
  2. Grab what you want.
  3. Pay for it.
  4. Exit the shop.

What a great idea! Sure, good online shops exist. But you get to rustle through crunchy Autumnal leaves while strolling around a bustling town centre.

Products I Purchased

Afterwards, I bought a KFC.

Computer Fixit Bloke (30th October 2007)

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men,
Couldn’t make modem go quickly again.

Since both computers have the same symptoms and ping bbc.co.uk is fine, the router is a likely cause.

(This was an example of simple poem markup.)

Project Cerbera Updates (29th October 2007)

After changing the hyperlink styles a few days ago I went on a revision sweep through Project Cerbera.

Borders on table cells and header cells are now a darker shade of the background colour for the cell they surround. Borders and backgrounds in the header, navigation menu and footer now match the table styling. You couldn’t call this “design” but I think it helps visually.

A few content pages are now more up to date. The gap on each side of the content is now 1% instead of 2%. But the biggest changes were to the Site Map:

What was that about simplicity sells?

User Interface Screenshots (29th October 2007)

20th June 2007 is when I created a UI Screenshots folder to document interesting features and phonemena in the world of Windows application interfaces. Internet Explorer 7 has been a rich vein, with 24 screenshots out of 60.

Not sure where I’ll put these, how much commentary I’ll add or anything else. But they are definitely going online somewhen and somewhere. My survey of data table markup has been well appreciated on public-html, so maybe something along these lines:

I’d like this to be a constructive and friendly exercise which makes friends and influences people. None of this is helped by something making our Internet access intermittent and dead slow.

Preparing for W3C HTMLWG Meeting (29th October 2007)

Counting my clothes has revealed I need more boxer shorts and jumpers before flying out to the HTMLWG Meeting.

Incidentally, incomprehensible strings of numbers and punctuation are commonly found in the title attributes of elements which contain dates when published by W3C staff and participants. Fewer people know about accessibility than you think. People who you think would know better, don’t.

Need to get a photo of each person I’m trying to meet at the event.

Hyperlink Underlines are now Borders (24th October 2007)

Underlines in hyperlinks cut off the descenders from the letters. Using border-bottom instead means you still get a line under the text but the descenders are free from obstruction.

That’s what I am now doing for the main content column:

/* - Links */
#content a {
 text-decoration: none;
 border-bottom: 1px solid;
#content a code {
 color: inherit;
 background: transparent;

This was another example of simple syntax highlighting.

New /web/ Section (20th October 2007)

Today I added the Web Technology section. This is basically a link dump for places I participate to try and help make the web an even better place.

The navigation list got shuffled around so all the GTA stuff is together. Made sense at the time, so I hope it helps.

Now the sidebar archive links only cover the current year. This saves 2kB per page and a lot of visual clutter.

Autumnal Cycling (14th October 2007)

Wet leaves make my circuit through the nearby woods really treacherous. Locked the rear wheel momentarily going whilst going over the wooden bridge in the most challenging section. I went slower through there next time!

I did several laps and rode past at least one squirrel each lap. Spent a while slaloming between pine trees to brush up my low-speed balance. The ditch crossings looked impassable, so I left them out.

38% Fragmented (14th October 2007)

Ran the Disk Defragmenter on the upstairs PC today. It had 38% file fragmentation.

Volume (C:)
Volume size112GB
Cluster size4kB
Used space18.31GB
Free space93.47GB
Percent free space83%
Volume fragmentation
Total fragmentation19%
File fragmentation38%
Free space fragmentation0%
File fragmentation
Total files112,320
Average file size219kB
Total fragmented files17,033
Total excess fragments70,827
Average fragments per file1.63
Pagefile fragmentation
Pagefile size768MB
Total fragments1
Folder fragmentation
Total folders5,920
Fragmented folders334
Excess folder fragments3,014
Master File Table (MFT) fragmentation
Total MFT size116MB
MFT record count118,383
Percent MFT in use99%
Total MFT fragments2
FragmentsFile SizeMost fragmented files
1,0228MB\Documents and Settings\Mum\Local Settings\Temp\Office XP Professional Setup(0001)_Task(0001).txt
8576MB\Documents and Settings\Ben\Local Settings\Temp\Publisher 2002 Setup(0001)_Task(0001).txt
683464MB\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop\ADBEPHSPCS3_WWE.exe
48662MB\Documents and Settings\Ben\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\M1FO5SNQ\Jakob.Nielsen[1].wmv
34662MB\Documents and Settings\Ben\My Documents\My Music\Presentations\Jakob Nielsen\designing usability (devsource).wmv
30721MB\Program Files\DivX\DivXInstaller.exe
28562MB\Documents and Settings\Ben\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\lo3h7uay.default\Cache\97979822d01
28146MB\Documents and Settings\Ben\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\lo3h7uay.default\Cache\_CACHE_003_
25032MB\Documents and Settings\Ben\My Documents\My Music\Presentations\TV Raman from Google.mp3
22036MB\Documents and Settings\Ben\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{86105046-B8D2-4B25-9048-5FFBADE1955A}\Microsoft\Outlook Express\Kainos.dbx
21453MB\Documents and Settings\Ben\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\lo3h7uay.default\Cache\B1942D79d01
177836kB\Documents and Settings\Ben\Application Data\Adobe\PatcherLogs\Adobe Bridge CS3 2.1.log

It took about an hour to run, after which everything was fine:

Volume (C:)
Volume size112GB
Cluster size4kB
Used space18.31GB
Free space93.47GB
Percent free space83%
Volume fragmentation
Total fragmentation0%
File fragmentation0%
Free space fragmentation0%
File fragmentation
Total files112,326
Average file size219kB
Total fragmented files1
Total excess fragments339
Average fragments per file1.00
Pagefile fragmentation
Pagefile size768MB
Total fragments1
Folder fragmentation
Total folders5,920
Fragmented folders1
Excess folder fragments0
Master File Table (MFT) fragmentation
Total MFT size116MB
MFT record count118,389
Percent MFT in use99%
Total MFT fragments2
FragmentsFile SizeFiles that cannot be defragmented

Why All the Tables?

The report used tables with combinations of these features:

Putting them into HTML was pretty easy. Tables where the only headers are for rows seem to need slightly smarter treatment: the first row header must not act as a column header.

(These were examples of simple table markup for various genuine cell arrangements.)

Feature Freeze & XP Themes (12th October 2007)

The Internet Explorer Blog has a great URI and is a great idea. But entries have been rather few and far between since IE7 was released.

The recent article, Internet Explorer 7 Update, talks about removing the Windows Genuine Advantage validation. But they changed something else, too:

This is great news! It means Microsoft might eventually give the XP build a sane UI. The comments to this article and many others on their blog talk about how poor its usability is. Helpdesk workers, ICT managers and regular users all with the same story: IE7’s interface is bad for users. There’s an Accesify Forum topic about it, Microsoft Begin to see Sense with IE7.

My comment on their blog is called Feature Freeze & XP Themes. Here’s what I said:

I echo the comments which ask for IE’s rendering to be left as-is. Having yet another imperfect rendering engine to try and support would be an additional “pain point” when IE7 was supposed to remove those. So I, for one, am happy that the IE team aren’t nibbling away at CSS issues.

As for the UI and it’s lack of usability, again I echo others’ comments. After a year, my parents still struggle to carry out basic tasks using it. A nearby UK school has avoided deploying it because training 1,000 kids to relearn how to use the school’s digital courses was eating up too much teaching time.

Having crazy UIs in Vista is fine, imho. But Windows XP has clear and helpful UI conventions which users have grown familiar with over the years. Yes, years. You need to fit in with the conventions of the OS whether it’s an instant messenger, a media player, a web browser, a word processor, or anything else.

Knocking together some mockup screens of how I think the interface could be improved might be worthwhile. Perhaps a diagram of what’s wrong, too.

Opening Files in TextStudio (11th October 2007)

My MDI text editor, TextStudio is badly coded because I suck at programming. But this year I’ve been improving big chuncks of it every month or two.

On 4th October I started scribbling ideas in my notepad about refactoring parts of the code. The opening of files is something that was spread all through the code with each opening method doing things a bit differently from all the others. None of them would crash the app but some had little bugs and it was a pain trying to troubleshoot them.

So I spent a couple more days writing ideas and boiling down the problems to write a new, simplified, centralised file opening routine.

Today, just 8 days later, I’ve implemented it and bugfixed it. It’s only a simple app written in Visual Basic 6 but seeing it steadily improve is a really cool feeling. Especially when really big-budget software producers are making their stuff steadily worse.

How to Disarm an Inaccessible Data Table (6th October 2007)

(In response to Better Connected, Better Results: Table Headers by RNIB. My message was always greeted with a 500 Internal Server Error.)

One idea is to treat <td><b> as though it means <th>. There are lots of other ideas. The Heuristic Tests for Data Tables (August 2007) and Heuristic Tests for Data Tables (September 2007) are where many of them are being discussed, prototyped and tested out. It's ongoing as part of HTML5's research and development.

We don't want to introduce an algorithm if it will fail most of the time, of course! My research is to see what authors are doing and whether hints like <td><b> are reliable enough for HTML5 to specify an algorithm which UAs would be expected to implement.

So far, it looks promising. But it’s too early to say for certain. Even when <th> is used, it sometimes needs more intelligence from the UA than to just go up from the current data cell and then go left from the current data cell. That's another aspect we are working on.

While I'm here, do you find that treating the first row as column headers and the first column as row headers works a lot of the time? If it does, that might help figure out tables which don't even use <td><b>.

Clean Bedroom (3rd October 2007)

My TV, digital cable decoder and cupboard units had gathered so much dust it looked like grey snow. Our vacuum cleaner has a brush attachment for it which is perfect for getting rid of dust. Conventional dusters throw some of it into the air and the rest goes up your nose.

After hovering all the dust from all the surfaces I did the carpet. The ring binder with all my GTA designs and planning is now retired to a drawer. It used to live on my floor for quick access but I don’t do modding any more. Especially given how my messages got deleted at GTA Forums recently.

Anyway, my room is now sparkly clean. The big posters of cars are now gone as well and various other de-cluttering took place, so it now has a genuinely spacious feel. Which is nice.

The Tools area has also seen some Spring cleaning. Well, it’s really Autumn cleaning now.