December 2007 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

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Reducing Filesize by 10% (28th December 2007)

While developing Project Cerbera 2.0, I hosted it in a subdirectory. The PHP had a little function to ensure navigation links used relative URIs rather than absolute ones.

In a uncharacteristic moment of logic, I realised the PHP could detect when the site is at the root of the domain and be smart about that case. Duh!

Old Navigation List

From a page 3 levels deep in the site heirarchy:

<div id="navigation">
<h1>Site Menu</h1>
 <li><a href='../../.././'>Home</a>
 <li><a href='../../../blog/'>Blog</a>
 <li><a href='../../../misc/'>Thoughts</a>
 <li><a href='../../../web/'>Web Technology</a>
 <li title='You are in this section.'><a href='../../../ui/'><strong>User Interfaces</strong></a>
 <li><a href='../../../tools/'>Tools &amp; Editors</a>
 <li><a href='../../../gta1/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> 1</a>
 <li><a href='../../../gta2/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> 2</a>
 <li><a href='../../../gta3/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> 3</a>
 <li><a href='../../../gtavc/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> Vice City</a>
 <li><a href='../../../gtasa/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> San Andreas</a>
 <li><a href='../../../tutorials/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> Tutorials</a>
 <li><a href='../../../links/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> Links</a>
 <li><a href='../../../sitemap'>Site Map</a>

New Navigation Markup

From the same page:

<div id="navigation">
<h1>Site Menu</h1>
 <li><a href='/'>Home</a>
 <li><a href='/blog/'>Blog</a>
 <li><a href='/misc/'>Thoughts</a>
 <li><a href='/web/'>Web Technology</a>
 <li title='You are in this section.'><a href='/ui/'><strong>User Interfaces</strong></a>
 <li><a href='/tools/'>Tools &amp; Editors</a>
 <li><a href='/gta1/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> 1</a>
 <li><a href='/gta2/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> 2</a>
 <li><a href='/gta3/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> 3</a>
 <li><a href='/gtavc/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> Vice City</a>
 <li><a href='/gtasa/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> San Andreas</a>
 <li><a href='/tutorials/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> Tutorials</a>
 <li><a href='/links/'><acronym title='Grand Theft Auto'>GTA</acronym> Links</a>
 <li><a href='/sitemap'>Site Map</a>

Old markup was 1,058 bytes. New markup is 944 bytes. A saving of just over 10%.

Old Breadcrumb Markup

Same page as the navigation list samples:

<p id='breadcrumb'>You are here: <a href='../../../'>Project Cerbera</a> > <a href='../../'>User Interfaces</a> > <a href='../' rel='up'>Windows XP</a> > Recycle Bin in Windows XP</p>

New Breadcrumb Markup

<p id='breadcrumb'>You are here: <a href='/' rel='home'>Project Cerbera</a> > <a href='../../'>User Interfaces</a> > <a href='../' rel='up'>Windows XP</a> > Recycle Bin in Windows XP</p>

The new code ends up just 3 bytes bigger than the old code, despite adding rel='home'.

Syntax Highlighting

Attribute values now use <span> instead of <var>:

Entity names now use <b><b> instead of <span>. This is 1 byte longer avoids class.

Fixing Project Cerbera (26th December 2007)

An online friend of mine for some years, Icey e-mailed me to wish a Merry Xmas. He also pointed out my recent tweaks had broken the layout in Opera 9.25 and Safari 3.01.

The tagline had been making the float for #header full width. Without that paragraph, it shrunk to contain its contents. Adding width: 100% to #header made it full width again.

However, the W3C box model puts padding outside of the width. So now the search box went outside the right edge of the viewport. Removing the padding from #header and applying it to the <h1> and <fieldset> directly put things right.

He brilliantly suggested calling my blog Life of Ben, in the spirit of Life of Brian.

Visit From Lynn and Kelly (24th December 2007)

Lynn is one of several aunties on my mother’s side. Her husband, Kelly, is an upbeat teller of funny stories. They visited us yesterday for a couple of hours.

It had been years since I last saw them, so this was neat.

Tweaking Project Cerbera (24th December 2007)

Doing a little bit of pointless tidying up from time to time keeps this website feeling fresh to me.

Removed the Tagline

The tagline for Project Cerbera used to be this:

Mods, levels, cars, handling setups, editors and tutorials for the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series.

The stuff I released for GTA is still available. I still get e-mails from people who have found it for the first time. Lots of things happen on Project Cerbera these days and the navigation list makes pretty clear what they are, so I’ve removed the tagline. It might come back if I think up something simple.

Default Search Colours

The Google site search allows custom colours using markup like this:

<input type="hidden" name="cof" value="GALT:#336666;GL:0;VLC:#882211;AH:left;BGC:#ffffff;LC:#882211;GFNT:#000000;ALC:#882211;T:#000000;GIMP:#000000;AWFID:ae27ead7684cc06f;">

It never offered enough control to tie in with Project Cerbera, so I’ve removed this.

Blog Retitled

The title for the blog index used to be this:

Blog of Ben ‘Cerbera’ Millard

It is now called The Life of Ben ‘Cerbera’ Millard.

About Me Box

A common and useful design pattern of other blogs is to have a tiny summary of the author and their blog in the sidebar. I now have one of these, saying this:

The Life of Ben ‘Cerbera’ Millard features web technologies, user interfaces, cycling and friends.

Each of these is a tiny thing. That’s what refinement is all about.

Experiments in Turkish Cuisine (22nd December 2007)

My family occassionally goes the Charcoal Grill in Fleet to get take-away. They do cheeseburgers, chips but, more interestingly, kebabs.

Usually I get a Donor kebab with onion and chips. I’ve done this for several years. But a couple of days ago I tried having a chicken kebab with salad and chips. It was delicious!

(The British population is fuelled with chips, btw).

Gran Turismo 3 (GT3) (21st December 2007)

When I bought the PS-TWO and GT4 I also got GT3 A-spec. The console has been packed away for quite a while. But today I set it all up again and began GT3.

So far, it seems to hark back to the original Gran Turismo in a lot ways. Good music, an awesome opening sequence and a big emphasis on tuning up regular cars for the early events.

The gear setup screen is ridiculously time-consuming to use. since I like getting the gears just right for each car I race frequently, this spoils the tinkering experience.

Traction control is now present and works wonderfully. The electronic aids are much less intrusive in GT3 than in GT4.

All Work and no Play (19th December 2007)

When I get work, I get lots of work. It all has to be done yesterday. And be top-notch.

During breakfast and occassional recovery breaks I read blogs about web technology, forums about web accessibility and mailing lists about web technology. (The recovery breaks are to prevent myself going (even more) mental after getting CSS to work robustly in IE6, IE7, Firefox 2 and Opera 9 without conditionally-served stylesheet(s). Yes, there are a lot of parenthesese happening here.)

Additionally, I persue various techy hobbies, such as bookmarking interesting uses of HTML. Eventually these will end up in a set of markup surveys, complementing my data tables survey. Documenting interesting quirks in Windows XP applications is a recent addition. Getting sponsorship for these is on my to-do list.

This is how my days are spent. Working. Non-stop. Doing stuff which is useful. In this respect, i r teh pwn. But a social life becomes impossible.

There are perhaps 5 bridges from me to a social life. They are all rather tenuous and would need a lot of shoring up before I could start using them. 1 has probably disintegrated irrecoverably. But this is an area I’m feeling increasing need to divert effort towards.

Avoiding phrases like “probably disintegrated irrecoverably” when in public might be a start? c{:¬)

Friendship with Fliss Ended (13th December 2007)

Since Housesitting for Fliss and Sue, Fliss and I hadn’t met. We e-mailed a little bit and I tried organising a visit a couple of times. But she would take days to get back to me but her messages were chirpy.

But, eventually, she just stopped responding. We weren’t arguing or even disagreeing over anything. She never said our friendship was over. She just became really unresponsive.

So today I sent her a text ending our friendship. I clocked what type of person she was early on. The entries on my blog don’t tell that story. I just couldn’t bear to think a friend of mine was such a disaster of a human being.

There were redeeming moments. Wonderful, emotional and even ROFL moments. But that’s all they were; moments. Within seconds she’d be back to her self-obsessed, contrary and plain mean self.

She was my only friend of recent years. Now I’m back to the painfully empty state of being without friends or social life.

New Virgin TV Box (11th December 2007)

The following channels were stuttering really badly for me:

  1. Five
  2. ITV4
  3. Virgin 1
  4. Virgin 1+1
  5. Sci-Fi Channel
  6. More 4
  7. Discovery
  8. Discovery +1
  9. Discovery Animal Planet
  10. Discovery Knowledge
  11. Discovery Realtime
  12. MTV One
  13. TMF
  14. VH1
  15. The Hits
  16. Movies 24
  17. Euro News
  18. Speed TV
  19. Gems TV 2
  20. BBC 1 AD

Last week we called the Virgin Media support line. We described the symptoms and they asked some obvious questions. An interesting question was whether the problems were happening on VH1. Is there something special about that channel, perhaps?

Anyway, today an “engineer” came round and checked the digital box. He found “errors” with it and gave us a replacement from his van. The new box is identical to the old one except it has a different logo printed on it.

It took a while to download the software and boot up. All the old user interface bugs are present, so Virgin Media have evidently not bothered releasing a fix yet.

But at least I can watch TV again!

Operation Xmas (8th December 2007)

All of my Xmas shopping will be done today, neatly slotted in between lots of work. Definitely worth getting yours sooner rather than later.

Post-theists (such as myself) view Xmas as an end-of-year family reunion type thing.

Operation Xmas Accomplished (8th December 2007)

Purchasing presents and cards for my mum and dad is now complete.