Today’s CSS learnings

Working on the redesign in earnest today. I’m teaching myself CSS from trial and error and the specs, so I don’t have a lot of authority, but I thought I’d share what I’m learning anyway.

CSS Learning #1: When trying to display a border around a <div>, you must specify the border color, size, and style (or have specified them as a default somewhere) or the border will not display.

CSS Learning #2: CSS allows you to specify dimensions of elements in a number of ways, including ems (an em is approximately equal to the width of a capital letter M in the font being used). Distance measurements in ems are great when you’re just working with type. However, when mixing images (fixed size in pixels) and type, ems may cause problems. The cause: slightly differing type dimensions across platforms, or different fonts installed in the user’s system.

CSS Learning #3: Float is your friend. The float attribute of a <div> around an image allows you to wrap text around that image.

Adobe gets SOAP religion: New Web services

Infoworld: Abobe opens Web services publishing door. I’d love to comment more than just the press release, but I can’t find a URL for the service and Adobe hasn’t published anything about it on their AlterCast page.

“… Adobe AlterCast software is designed to automate the production and workflow of Web images and graphics. For example, AlterCast can resize a picture or manipulate layers of text dynamically.

The addition of SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) support to AlterCast will allow developers to access the software functionality over the Internet using Java or .Net APIs, which will enable dynamic Web image updating and production from a single command, according to Adobe officials, in San Jose, Calif.”

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News is free…

Well, as a Radio user I have no more gripes about dearths of news feeds, having just found NewsIsFree. The only question remaining is, why don’t the newspapers go out and build their own RSS feeds to share–why do sites like NewsIsFree and Moreover have to do it for them? Seems to me they could disintermediate these guys in a heartbeat. And I would think that newspapers, above all, would understand the importance of syndication.
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Hooked on Radio

So I have to confess. I’m not using it for weblogging, but I’m finding Radio to be invaluable in feeding my news addiction. I love getting my favorite blogs plus headlines from CNET, Wired, Slashdot, and others all on one page. There are some really cool people out there building RSS feeds.

My question is, why don’t the major news sources (WSJ, NYT (yes I know there’s a scraped feed available), Washington Post) hop on the bandwagon? It would be fairly trivial, and I would think good business, to set up an XML headline link listing that would bring people to your site.
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Morpheus: Classic story of tech strategy gone wrong

Among file sharing programs, one strange menage a trois stands out: Morpheus, KaZaA, Grokster. All three run essentially the same software, owned by KaZaA. Last week something happened to Morpheus — it’s not clear what. According to Slashdot, the ownership of Morpheus (Music City) has claimed that individuals “launched a DOS attack and tampered with the morpheus network in order to disallow logons to the FastTrack P2P filesharing network through the client. ” According to this message, KaZaA sold out to another outfit and started kicking the Morpheus clients off the network.

Where’s the cautionary tale here? Well, there are two parameters that determine how well you can capture the value you create (i.e., stay in business). Is your product’s uniqueness easy or hard to maintain? Do you hold the complementary assets you need to realize that product’s value tightly or loosely? Well, let’s see. Morpheus licensed its technology wholesale, so uniqueness was hard to maintain. And their network was connected to its competitors (all three P2P clients connected to the same big FastTrack network). I guess they didn’t have too tight a control over their complementary assets. So how was Morpheus going to capture any value??? Somewhere, though, someone thought they were a good idea…
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Not MySQL, says Boston judge

I’m delighted to see that Judge Patti B. Saris in my home town of Boston, a town not normally renowned for avoiding confrontation, is ducking the question of whether the GPL can be enforced. She does appear to be practicing good jujitsu on the negotiators, though, by turning around the injunction issue:

Before pushing the parties toward a settlement, the judge previewed a likely outcome of the preliminary injunction if a settlement is not reached. For a preliminary injunction to be granted, she said, the plaintiff must show that it is being done irreparable harm.

On the GPL issue, Saris told MySQL that “I haven’t seen the irreparable harm to you and I have seen it to Progress,” if its business were shut down.

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Dave, meet Blogdex… and MS Research

Dave wants a tool that can show you how connected two weblogs are to each other, and indicates what the traffic looks like between them. I think he’s right that the second is impossible for a centralized search engine… but what about a distributed referral collection app?

As for the first, the Netscan project at Microsoft Research does something similar for newsgroups by tracing cross-postings and provides visualization. Blogdex traces links from blog to blog. It should be possible to apply the visualization and connectability capabilities from Netscan to the data that Blogdex collects.

If someone does this, I want credit on the thesis. 🙂
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Cease-and-desist meets organized resistance

CNET: Site reads Web surfers their rights. This sounds a bit like the “Your Rights On-Line” section of Slashdot writ large:

ChillingEffects.org serves as an educational hub where Internet surfers can learn about their legal rights related to cease-and-desists letters….

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and law school clinics at Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of San Francisco said they created the Web site as part of a project called Chilling Effects, referring to the way legal threats can freeze out free expression. The coalition said the project aims to provide basic legal information about ongoing issues related to copyright, trademark and domain names, defamation, anonymous speech, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

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BOFH: SQL For Retards

SQL for Retards. Hysterical. You can only imagine how often I dreamed of this conversation:

“But I’m not responsible for the which of the volumes he puts his tablespace on.”

“Uh?” The Boss responds, reverting to subhuman IQ as a defence.

“OK, an analogy. Let’s say I was the building owner and I rent you 30 offices.”

“Right.”

“And you have 30 staff.”

“Yes.”

“And you put them all in one office because then you won’t have to go all around the floor to see what people are up to.”

“Yyyess?”

“And then you complain to me about the air-conditioning because that one office is stinking hot, humid and smelly.”

CSS from both sides of the fence

I’ve tried to stay out of the blogwar over using CSS vs. tables for web site design that has been brewing at Scripting News and other places, but I think it’s time to jump in. I’ll be working on a CSS-based redesign of this site over the next few weeks. I’ve noticed how slowly this page renders in Netscape 4.x (because of all the nested tables), and hopefully moving to CSS will either make things easier or convince the 4.x readers to move to more modern browsers (hi, Dad!).

Two quick resources to get started: Microsoft’s CSS node in the MSDN library, and Apple’s series on CSS in its developers’ site.