October, 2003

31
Oct 03

Northern Lights

Last night at about 12.30 I decided to go for a wander round Haddington to burn off some energy. I was walking down towards the doctors surgery, which is a well lit street, when I noticed some strange beams of light coming from the sky. It was hard to believe that the Northern Lights were so visible from within the town so I walked up to the old A1 where there aren’t any street lights for a better look.

What followed was one of the most awesome natural displays I’ve ever seen. For about 10 minutes it was quite pretty and interesting, but then it really turned up the heat. What looked like a giant fireball was in the sky and beams of orange, blue and white light surrounded me. The ever changing sky was mesmerising and I kept turning in circles not sure where to face. I started to head back home to get my camera when the intensity was increased again. Beams were landing in the field next to me and it felt like the sky was coming closer to earth and wanted to swallow me. I kept saying aloud, “Fuck me! This is awesome!”. I thought it was amazing, but for the first time I understood how some people can be scared by it.

It was so good I woke my Mum up when I got home at 1am and took her back up the road. Unfortunately it had started to cloud over a lot and the lights weren’t so visible, but they were still present and it was the first time Mum had seen the lights. Seeing that display in Haddington was probably a once in a lifetime experience. Mental.


29
Oct 03

Design cock-up

Had a shower this morning, sitting on the bath seat thing as usual. Took my brace to put it back on when the top metal part fell off. Not cool. Closer inspection revealed a proper crack on the plastic bit too. Hmmm.

It felt a little shaky at Stuart’s house last night and now it was decidedly limp. Luckily my Mum and Dad were around to hunt out a replacement bolt and after a 20 minute service in the bath it was good to go.

This isn’t the first time I’ve wondered if the designers of this brace have ever bothered to try the thing on. There are bolts going into nuts that are imposible to grip, one set that you can only do up hand tight and your ribs get bruised by another set. Usuability testing seemed not to apply to this product. Ack well, 5 weeks to go…

Off into Edinburgh now to discuss data structuring and interface design with Mike which should be cool.


28
Oct 03

Exceptionally funky CSS tabbed navigation

A List Apart, the web site every developer loves to love, was relaunched a few days ago and have started off with an awesome article – Sliding Doors of CSS. The article describes a very nifty use of CSS to create the sort of tabbed navigation system that is usually only achievable with text-images, while of course keeping all of the accessibility and load time advantages of CSS. This has come at an appropriate time as Mike and I are just getting into discussions about nav systems and layouts for a client’s site.

Basically the technique involves creating a horizontal list of links, like the main menu system over at ScottishClimbs and applying a background image to both the list item and the link itself. These images overlap each other but have room to ‘slide’ if the text, and therefore the tab, is increased in size. If you can’t be bothered reading the whole article and just want to see what I’m talking about, check out the final version.

I’m really wanting to improve my average CSS skills over the next few months, hopefully by getting stuck into developing a few more new sites, and things like this really help. This really is using CSS in ways I had never thought of. Very impressed.


23
Oct 03

Not recommended injury

Not recommended injury

EDIT: the post I made a year after my accident may be interesting too.

A little over two months ago (August 17th) I broke my back quite badly in a kite mountainboarding crash. I landed very hard on my arse after my bar (which controls the kite) got caught on my harness. My L1 vertibrae burst into my spinal column damaging my spinal cord, but thankfully not severing it. I spent two and a half weeks in Glasgow Southern General Spinal Injuries Unit, which is an excellent facility by the way, where I had an operation to stabilise my back with two plates and four pins.

By all accounts I’m super lucky to be able to walk and should make a pretty much full recovery, even if it takes a year. I’m at the stage where I’m starting to feel like I’ve got a back again and I’ve got another eight weeks of wearing a space-age-looking back brace before I can start to get my back strengthened up. The surgeons are very non-commital (fair enough!) about how long it’ll get to back into sports and I’m just going to take it as it comes.


23
Oct 03

Who’s Mark Somerville?

Despite the dangers of this sounding like a classifieds ad, it’s time to let you quickly know who I am. A 23 year old Scottish lad, freelance web developer and kite boarding addict. Into most sports, but usually only one at a time. I help run the main ScottishClimbs site which has been our wee project for a couple of years. I’ve recently broken my back in a kiting accident (more about that in another post) so I’ve been living with my parents in Haddington until I’m fixed but as soon as I’m fit to work again I’ll be moving into a flat in Edinburgh somewhere. At the moment I’m having a lot of fun learning as much as I can about web development to try to keep my mind off the fact that I can’t do sport.

If you don’t know me, then we’ve only just scratched the surface, but you get the gist :-).


22
Oct 03

26 Megs in Japan!

Jeremy Zawodny is visiting Japan just now and tells of a 26 meg DSL line costing the same as his (US) 3 meg line. The Netherlands too have 8 meg ADSL lines for about 40 Euros (where is the Euro sign on a keyboard?). Oh dear, poor Britain really is a long, long way behind. I recently suggested getting a 1 meg line when I move into a flat in town and was laughed at – “There is no need for that much bandwidth”.

I disagree. Britiain’s mass move to 512k ADSL is certainly a step in the right direction and is much improved over standard modem links, but is surely only a start. Higher bandwidth applications are appearing on the internet, and a connection only needs to be shared between two or three users before you can notice a slowdown. Mike recently noticed the bandwidth throttle on his cable connection was giving him 1 meg rather than 0.5 and really noticed the difference.


21
Oct 03

Blogging…

Just starting this blogging lark, this post will most likely be deleted! Only got the highly exciting MT standard template at the moment, this will of course change as soon as I get a chance. A fair bit of scene setting to be done, but I’ll settle for messing about with this new toy for now :-).