November, 2003

30
Nov 03

St Andrews kite day and purple hair

Last night I had dinner at Potter’s house where he and his wife Diana made it seem like a good idea to try dye my hair blue. All was going well until we washed my hair and most of the colour parted company with my head leaving a kind of blue rinse effect…not cool. Hopefully this photo does it justice. If it doesn’t look that bad, it hasn’t done it justice!

Failed experiments in hair dye

Today Potter, John, Pedro and I went to the St Andrews kite day. Bad start to the day for Ped as I trapped and mangled his fingers in the door of the van – bad one, sorry mate! It was the first time I’ve been around kiting since I broke my back and it was actually pretty cool. Thankfully there was no wind (typical kite festival then) so nobody was looking like they were having too much fun. Was cool to speak to loads of folk I’ve not seen since the summer: like Kai from Flexi, all of the St Andrews crew, Iain from Twist and Turn and GPS Roj from PKD. Had a decent scran and some beers in St A’s which was a laugh then back in the van with the usual proper discussion on the way home :).

Tomorrow’s the day I’ve been waiting for for the last three months, I finally get to start taking my brace off – yippee (although it’ll probably be a total anti-climax)! It’s only for half an hour, but it’s a start and I’ll probably be glad to get it back on ‘cos I reckon it’s gonna hurt.


28
Nov 03

Notes on our latest site

This is as much documentation for me as anything else. Mike and I are practically finished our latest site for a kitesurfing school on the Isle of Tiree which is part of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast. The task was to create a clean, good looking static site that is both usable and accessible in a fairly short time (we weren’t getting paid very much for this so wanted to get it done pronto, hence some of the wee errors) – I think we’ve succeeded, but I’m bound to say that, nobody likes to admit defeat. There are still a few tweaks that I want to make, and I’m not 100% convinced about some of the accessibility implementation, but I’m still learning about that.

If you don’t like the graphics, blame Mike. If you don’t like the coding, blame me. If you don’t like the general layout and design, blame us both and we’ll probably blame you. The site is (hopefully) semantically rich XHTML and CSS. The most interesting bit of markup (don’t be surprised if it’s not that interesting) is on the contact page where I used a couple of definition lists to markup the contact info. I hadn’t used definition lists before and I think it’s a pretty fair use of them. I think I’ll continue to use them like that until I see a convincing argument to the contrary. Anyway, nobody likes to read about success so… onto the bugs!

1. The main navigation menu is an unordered list of links. In an ideal world the items would simply be displayed inline and it would be a lovely horizontal list. Due to IE5.0/pc not being able to cope with margin and padding of inline elements I needed to declare them as block elements and float them to the right. This worked well but highlighted a IE5/Mac float bug which displayed the list vertically. The CSS was lovely and hack free until this :(. A IE5/Mac comment parsing hack was used so I could display the menu items as inline. Things weren’t lining up so I used that hack to also remove the fadey line leaving it usable but not over pretty.

2. The second hack came into play when I removed an unnecessary DIV and put the lower header image as a background to the H1 tag. IE5.0/5.5/pc couldn’t cope with adding up the padding and height so I needed to use a box-model hack.

3. The page is set to 94% of the viewport and has a maximum width of 75em (75 times the standard font height) (seems like a decent line length as most lines are cut short by either a photo or a table). This means the actual width of the page will vary as the text is resized. IE/pc doesn’t understand max-width so is always 94% of the viewport. There is a way to set max-width using the proprietry IE feature expression() but it isn’t valid CSS so I decided against it.

4. IE/pc can’t handle alpha-transparency in PNGs so Mike had to rustle up a nifty GIF in it’s place. PNG would have been ideal, buy hey…

5. At the bottom left of each page there is another list (this one needed no padding or margins so could be displayed inline) whose contents are separated with a full-stop which is inserted using the :after pseudo class in CSS. IE/pc (all versions) and possibly IE/Mac doesn’t recognise this so the full-stops are missing. Works fine in real browsers.

6. The “Skip development list” link at the start of the footer list is being a pain in the arse. In the top menu I’ve hidden the accesskey link by setting it’s width and height to zero and setting overflow:hidden;. For now I’ve made the link disappear by going for display:none; but this isn’t an acceptable solution as some screen readers don’t read items like this! EDIT: Donald alerted me to an obvious change (putting the menu above the footer) which meant I could get rid of this link.

7. The footer is, to put it nicely, a bit
screwed in IE/Mac. I really should try to fix this (I haven’t tried properly), but it’s a slow process using Mike as a remote tester. Maybe sometime.


21
Nov 03

CSS transparency and IE

This entry is out of date now, the file I was playing with has gone away!

I’ve come across a nippy little problem when coding the menu for a new site. I’ve got a full width div with a background-image which is a curve, one side of which is transparent. There’s an absolutely positioned menu div which I’d like to slide ‘under’ the image.

CSS:

#menu {
position:absolute;
top:20px;
margin:0;
padding:0;
margin-left:auto;
margin-right:auto;
width:50em;
max-width:800px;
border:1px solid green;
text-align:right;
}

#lower-header {
position:relative;
z-index:2;
background-color:transparent;
background-image:url(../images/bottom.png);
background-repeat:no-repeat;
height:65px;
margin:0;
padding:3em 0 0 0;
border-right:1px solid #000000;
}

Looks pretty much as it should in IE5+, Op and Firebird but, as usual, doesn’t work as it should in IE – the links are visible, but not clickable.

Any clever ideas for solving the problem without changing the XHTML considered ;-)

EDIT: background image is normally a PNG, but it’s gone funky for some reason so that page is using a GIF.


18
Nov 03

Dogma

Headed out to Dogma with Colin, Shona and Andy on Friday to see Gayle San. It was really good hard techno and was pretty busy. Met the usual crew at the Calton Studios, got wasted and had a laugh. Had to wait for Andy to pack down at the end which got a bit nippy, but it improved again when we got back to his flat. By 9am most folk had packed it in so I headed round to Jason’s (who was also at Dogma) which was a good laugh. Very cool, just wish I’d gone round earlier. Next time… Saturday afternoon and night was spent in bed and Sunday was wobbly. Better now :)


16
Nov 03

Delayed appointment update

Finally got to speak to the hospital about my delayed appointment. Looks like my appointment will remain on the 20th January, but I can start taking the brace off at the start of December. This is mixed news.

Obvioulsy I’m glad I’ll be able to start taking it off, but I can’t swim (or anything else vaguely althletic) at least until I see the surgeon in January. This is later than I had hoped but I guess a few weeks won’t make much difference in the long term. They also told me to only take it off for 30mins the first couple of days, build up slowly and prepare for it to be very sore. Again I’ve been reminded how serious breaking you back can be. Hmmm.


14
Nov 03

Museums, hoodies and whisky

Headed into Edinburgh yesterday to hook up with Mike and see Matrix 3. I went in early and looked around the Royal Museum. I’d forgotten how awesome it is. It’s worth going just to see the building IMO but it’s fascinating inside too. Also checked out the Museum of Scotland which is a funky new building that is joined on the side, but didn’t like it. I’ve heard people rave about the design, but it didn’t do it for me at all.

Hooked up with Mike and arrived at the cinema to find it closed – permanently. Bugger.

We managed to sort out an order for some ScottishClimbs hoodies instead and then went to the pub with Stuart and the new dude from Wipika where we ended up drinking some savagely expensive (but very nice) whisky – Lagavuilin. Had a giant ‘Salitire Burger’ for dinner to finish the day off – thanks Stuart :)


12
Nov 03

“buggying is simply wrong”

Oh dear, how silly some people can be. ATBMag interviewed me for their latest issue which came out the other day. Seems someone isn’t too happy [Mell has deleted this thread but I saved a copy just before he did] with something I said. Quite entertaining actually. I’ll put it into context:

What made you take up KiteATB over other kite sports such as buggying or kitesurfing?
I kitesurf and kitesnowboard as well as mountain board and they all compliment each other really well, although kiteATB feels quite different because of the wheels. Buggying is simply wrong. When I started I just got a kite and didn’t really know what it was all about – KiteATB just looked cool.

Man, that wound someone up enough to post on a public forum! I think he/she needs to take up kiteATB :). Buggying does feel wrong to me though – you’re flying the kite off to one side, not in front of you. Buggies are more expensive, a pain to travel with and crap for jumping. Why anyone getting into the sport would choose three wheels over four is beyond me (OK, they go a wee bit faster, but you’ll soon get tired of that!).

I’ll hopefully get a copy when I get to the shop the morn, I’ve still not seen it.


12
Nov 03

Change of look

Finally changed the look of my blog a wee bit. OK, so it’s not going to win web design awards any time soon, but I’m concentrating on other things just now.


11
Nov 03

Crappy day

Got up this morning to find a letter from the Spinal Unit telling me that they “regret to inform you that your appointment on 02/12/03 has to be re-scheduled to 20/01/04”.

WTF? I’m expected to wear this back brace for 20 weeks instead of 13? Something wrong here. I called them a few times but couldn’t seem to speak to anyone important. In the end I was told that the surgeon would call me on Thursday or thereabouts to sort something out. We’ll see what happens…

To try to get that out of my head I went to St Abbs with my parents and niece, Jenny. It’s a lovely wee village in the Scottish Borders and we’d never been before. We checked out the harbour, little museum and walked for a couple of hours around the cliffs of St Abbs Head, the nature reserve. If you’ve not been and you live nearby you should check it out next time you’ve got a day free.

Note to self: must film some moutain biking on the clifftop paths there when my back is better, could look really good.

We’d just finished our walk when the client who’s site we’ve been working on recently called to tell me, out of the blue, that he already has a new site that he only just found out about so he won’t be needing us. A pretty shitty way of doing business to say the least and it’s left me with a foul taste in my mouth.


7
Nov 03

Multiple versions of IE on one box!

Joe Maddalone of Insert Title Web Designs has found a way to run multiple versions of IE on one XP/2000 pc – very handy. I’ve tested them and all seems well, although it does appear that at least one valid box model hack (which I’m using on a site we’re doing just now!) fails in these versions of IE as they still think that they are IE 6.

I didn’t bother to follow his instructions, choosing to be lazy and just grab the necessary files from Skyzyx.com. I don’t imagine the files will live there for long though, must be something wrong with re-distributing Microsoft files like that.

As it’s actually proved so simple to run multiple version of IE on one box you have to ask why nobody (Microsoft!) hadn’t released this sooner. I’m not the only one asking this.

Edit: IE 3 and IE 4 are also now available at the same site. It also turns out that some people have done this for a while now, yet it’s only just become common knowledge – strange.


5
Nov 03

CSS only rounded corners

I found Rounded corners with CSS – Virtuelvis today. Yet another neat little CSS thing that gets stuffed by crap browsers, IE in particular. I know I’m not the first to say this, I’ll bet I’m not even in the first 10, I’m just getting more and more frustrated with browser inadequacies as I learn more CSS.


3
Nov 03

Funky CSS Part 2

The second part of the Sliding Doors CSS article is now on A List Apart. Not read it all properly, but I imagine it’ll build on the excellent first article.