Rambling On…

Professional Frontend Engineering Video — 06/26/2009

Professional Frontend Engineering Video

This video, Nate Koechley: “Professional Frontend Engineering” from Yahoo! Video, is a great presentation about the current state of frontend web development (HTML, CSS, JavaScript). I was completely captivated for the full hour and a half that the presentation lasted.

Nate started out with a history of website development starting with a 1994 version of the Yahoo! website and continuing until the present. He also spoke about the evolution of technologies and trends over the years. It was interesting to hear about how table based design became popular and why it was necessary at the time.

Next up was an overview of current beliefs and principles of front end engineering, which covered progressive enhancement, unobtrusive javascript, and the importance of making the website available to the largest possible audience.

The next section, Knowledge Areas and Best Practices, covered rendering modes, doctypes, and using each technology appropriately, i.e. html for semantic markup, css for presentation, and unobtrusive javascript for behavior. One thing I found interesting was that he considered it more important to keep the css code for each area in the same place by using hacks for IE6 and IE7, even though it would prevent the css from validating. I usually use conditional comments and separate stylesheets for different versions or combinations of versions of IE and can definitely see the benefit of Nate’s approach, as well as how it could be a big timesaver.

The presentation wrapped up with the ‘Why It All Matters’ segment which brought everything together and included a call to action for developers to stay vigilant, keep up with modern technologies and the bugs that arise from them, and to continue making the internet a better experience for everyone.

A Million Things — 06/18/2009

A Million Things

Ok, not really a million things, but it sure feels like it lately. Luckily, my new combination of meds seems to be working and it a lot easier to do things than it was not long ago. There are a few bad effects too, but so far, I think more good than bad. It is always a tradeoff.

Things that are going on right now:

  • Me and K are doing everything we can to be able to move to Baltimore. Things here keep getting worse because the economy is extra sucky in California.
  • Cleaning our house and getting rid of stuff so it can be ready for appraisal. We have dates set up twice a week until the end of July to get stuff done.
  • Working, working, working. Almost done with 2 projects and have a phone appt. tomorrow to talk about what will hopefully be the next one.
  • Learning CodeIgniter. CodeIgniter is a PHP framework for rapid application development. I am really loving it so far, but there is much to learn.
  • Learning jQuery. I use it often enough that it is kind of crazy to have to look everything up all the time.
  • Waiting for my iMac to come back from the shop. It’s been having random strangeness for a while now and AppleCare has given up.
  • Working on my MacBook which is a lot slower and has half the RAM of my iMac. Booted off a clone of my iMac hard drive. There is a 2-5 second delay almost every time I click something. Still, gotta love the bootable clone!
  • Made my last dentist appointment before Denti-Cal goes away on July 1st. I hate going to the dentist, but it was nice to have the option.
  • Creating a new theme for LBnuke. Not sure why. I still like this one, but I was inspired to start from scratch in Photoshop and learn some new design techniques while I am at it. Actually, first draft was made with pen on a piece of printer paper. No new techniques there.

I am very overwhelmed and so is K. For the most part, things are really good and we are very lucky. Still, it is hard to be stuck here and it keeps getting harder as the California budget gets cut more and more. We are both trying to stay positive and focus on all the good things. There are many, including 4 cats, and aforementioned computer 🙂

If Clients Treated Others Like They Do Freelancers — 05/28/2009
Leaving Oakland? — 05/12/2009

Leaving Oakland?

K and LB @ Slainte Pub in  Baltimore
K and LB @ Slainte Pub in Baltimore

Me and K spent the past week in Baltimore and Florida and had a great time. We want to move to Baltimore, but we can’t. It sucks. We decided we wanted to move a few weeks before the economy crashed. Things looked pretty good for us then. Now we are stuck here for what could be a long time.

We both love Oakland and the Bay Area, but it is time to go. About 5 years ago, we visited Baltimore and came home thinking about moving there to help out K’s folks with stuff that they have a hard time doing, but that would be easy for us to do. They told us we shouldn’t move because of them, and we didn’t. In the 5 years since, we have accumulated many more reasons to move there and fewer reasons to stay.

I have 2 beautiful nieces now that I didn’t have then, Hannah (3) and Abilgail (10 months). I want to see them grow up. I want to know them. I would also like to see the rest of my family more often. Even though they are in Florida, I would still see them way more often than I do now. Florida is a long drive or short plane ride away from Baltimore. Even if I am having a hard time traveling, I could get there. When my grandma was sick and moved to Florida to be closer to family, I wanted to see her so bad. I wanted it worse than anything, but I couldn’t get there. Then she died. I missed my chance forever. If I had lived in Baltimore then, I could have gotten there, maybe even several times. I never want anything like that to happen again.

K has lots of great friends in Baltimore that she has known for many years. For some reason I find it really easy to be with them and always have a lot of fun when we visit. It is very rare that I am that comfortable around people, especially groups of people. I have a couple of friends there too, including Kim who I have known for 25 years and would love to live near again. I spend most of my time here alone. Mostly by choice, but it would be nice to know that other options are available once in a while. There are options here too, but I am never organized enough to make plans and can not predict when my brain will cooperate. I suppose that will be the same wherever I am. Too bad.

Many things have to happen before we can leave. K has to take the national social work test and find a job, we need to figure out what to do with our house especially if selling it is not a viable option, and we need to do it all in a way that we end up with enough money to move and not get totally screwed if our unsold house goes without tenants for a month or more. This would be a good time to win Lotto.

It is hard to be here now. My new medicine combo is making some things much better than before, like traveling, but other things are worse again. I am very tired. My head is louder. It is easier to get out of the house than before, but only when my head is quiet. Otherwise, it is harder. Not sure I will ever find the magic combo of drugs/doses/whatever. Glad to have ones that help as much as they do though. I hope we can get out of here before too long. I don’t know if things will be different there, but there is only one way to find out. It will be very sad to leave our house. We both love it a lot. Wish we could move it across country.

Project Spectrum — 04/26/2009

Project Spectrum

Project Spectrum was created to give people with autism the opportunity to express their creativity and develop a life skill using Google SketchUp 3D modeling software.

This video shows 3D models created by 4 children on the autism spectrum. Three of the models are of the child’s dream house. All are very interesting! Some of the children made paper sketches before trying SketchUp. Narration explains the children’s experience with the software compared to their experience with the paper sketches.

I wish there was something like this around when I was a kid! I wonder if it could be used to create 3D mind maps. I have found it helpful on occasion to use mind mapping software to translate the multi-planed thoughts in my head into the pictures and shapes of a mind map, and then have the software convert them to an outline of words that can be used in a way that I imagine is how “regular” people just use them automatically. Adding a 3rd dimension to a mind map would definitely make it more intuitive to use, as thoughts could be placed where they belong, rather than using lines that are too long to show a distance that would better be described by showing the thought’s proximity in space to the other thoughts.

Of course this kind of software will not benefit everyone on the autistic spectrum, but it is nice to know that a special effort is being made to give these children a new way to express themselves, especially one that is visual and 3 dimensional, AND teaches them a marketable skill in a growing industry.

For more information, go to http://sketchup.google.com/spectrum.html.

Bee in Aspieland — 04/09/2009

Bee in Aspieland

In February 2006, Karen and I made a comic. Then we got sidetracked for three years. K took the original pictures and I made them into comics in Photoshop. We wrote the story together. This morning we filled in the remaining text and put the images in order.

Click on the images to view in gallery. Fullscreen mode is supported.

This comic is dedicated to Shiki.

Kutiman – Thru-you – 01 – Mother of All Funk Chords — 03/14/2009

Kutiman – Thru-you – 01 – Mother of All Funk Chords

Thru-you is a video series created by Israeli recording artist, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) by doing an extensive YouTube search for clips of people playing music and mixing them into a single jam. In Thru-you – 08 – About, he explains the process.

Thru-you – 01 – Mother of all Funk Chords:

I checked out a bunch of his other videos and they are really amazing. Kutiman plays a multitude of musical instruments, including keyboards, drums, guitar, percussion, and bass. His music has been described as “urban psychedelic funk” and sometimes showcases his friends and favorite musicians from the scene in Tel Aviv.

Thanks to Ed for the tip!

Fidelity: “Don’t Divorce Us” — 03/05/2009

Fidelity: “Don’t Divorce Us”

18,000 couples are facing potential forcible divorce due to the legal briefs filed by Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund on December 19, 2008 defending the constitutionality of Prop 8 and seeking to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages conducted between May and November of 2008.

Courage Campaign asked people to respond by sending personal pictures with a very simple message:

“Don’t Divorce Us”

Over 350,000 people have signed this letter telling the state Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8, reject Ken Starr’s case, and let loving, committed couples marry.

We, the undersigned, share President Barack Obama’s view that for too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It’s time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect.

Yet, on December 19, 2008, Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund filed legal briefs defending the constitutionality of Prop 8 and seeking to nullify the marriages of 18,000 devoted same-sex couples solemnized before Prop 8 passed.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case on March 5, with a decision expected within 90 days.

We, the undersigned, ask that the Court enforce the equality promised to each of us by our constitution and invalidate Prop 8. So doing will protect all loving, committed couples in California — including the 18,000 who said “I do” last year — and prevent the initiative process from being a tool for stripping vulnerable minorities of precious constitutional rights.

As Americans who believe in the rule of law and fundamental civil rights, we know that Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund’s shameful attempt to nullify equal protection and all these bonded unions will be condemned in the eyes of history. We know that, ultimately, love will prevail, no matter how hard they try to fight it.

371,155 people have signed this letter*.

Please add your name now!

* Updated: 7:55 p.m. PT, Wednesday, March 4

Chalkboard Color Scheme for Komodo — 03/03/2009

Chalkboard Color Scheme for Komodo

This color scheme is updated regularly. (View Updates)

Komodo PHP Sample
Komodo PHP Sample

Komodo Edit 5 has been my default code editor for the past week or so. It is much faster and nicer to look at than previous versions that I have tried. I switch default code editors almost as often as I switch default browsers. There are so many good ones out there, but none feels exactly right. Considering I spend most of my days switching between browsers and editor, I like to keep up with the latest that is available for mac.

One of the things I am most picky about in an editor is the color scheme. It is very hard for me to find schemes that I can stand to stare at for long periods of time. Schemes with white/light backgrounds and colored text are usually too bright for me and dark schemes are usually either too high or too low contrast. For this reason, I usually end up making my own.

If anyone else is using Komodo Edit (or Komodo IDE) and is similarly picky about color schemes, I have made it available for download.

Click here to download the LB Chalkboard scheme

Komodo CSS sample
Komodo CSS Sample

I should mention that the only language specific colors I made changes to are PHP, CSS, HTML, XML, and JavaScript. Also, I am still changing things as I come across them.

Update (3/4/09): Changed CSS comment color from green to default grey.

Update (3/21/09): Downloaded the trial version of Komodo IDE 5 yesterday and noticed that schemes switched over automatically. [update: bought Komodo IDE 5 after trial expired. Still loving it (1/17/10)]

Update (3/24/09): Fixed issue with some defaults changing from white to black text after update to Komodo 5.1. Added language specific colors for Smarty.

Update (8/23/09): Changed Common Syntax bracehighlight background color from dark grey to yellow for increased visibility.

Update (9/17/09): Changed Find highlighting indicator background color from yellow to green for increased readability.

Update (1/17/10): Changed Tag matching indicator background color from orange to light blue for increased readability.

Update (4/20/10): Identifiers color added for JavaScript.

Update (5/30/10): Changed colors of identifiers and strings for JavaScript because the orange identifiers were burning out my retinas. Identifiers are now off-white and strings are light orange.

Update (10/14/10): A few settings were changed slightly after installing Komodo 6.0. Still assessing whether I will change them back or keep them as is.

Update (6/1/11): CSS identifier color changed to increase readability, reduce eye-strain, and match other scheme colors better.

Update (7/9/11): All is well in Komodo 7.0-alpha3 except for the new HTML5 scheme not matching at all. Will get to that if I can ever find some time.

Update (12/28/11): This scheme has been included as a default scheme in Komodo 7 and is now called Dark_Chalkboard. Thanks to ActiveState for including it.

BeeDragon on Facebook — 02/20/2009

BeeDragon on Facebook

I have been doing a lot of research into freelance networking. My favorite source of information is Freelance Radio, the FreelanceSwitch podcast. It is by far the best of the freelance podcasts I have listened to.

The panel is excellent. The host, John Brougher, does a great job of keeping the podcast on topic while still allowing room for tangential discussions about issues relating to freelancers. John and the other panel members, Kristen Fischer, Von Glitschka, and Dickie Adams, share tips and information based on their years of experience as successful freelancers.

The other day, I was listening to a ‘Super Mailbag’ episode where they answer questions sent in by listeners. One question was about ways to do marketing and the topic of having a Facebook page came up. There were some good points about how it is a great way to get your link out to a lot of people for free without being overly pushy about it (like when people spam twitter with business ads and links).

Facebook is a place where people who may not usually keep in touch with each other can catch up with old friends and have ‘day to day’ type communication with people in a way that time and distance would not normally allow. It is also a place where people share links and other information, allowing word to spread very quickly about anything from a new flower for your virtual garden to a great web business that you know about!

Today I created a Facebook page for BeeDragon. As a start, I posted screenshots from my portfolio to an album and a special offer for Facebook users to get 10% of their next order. I am still researching ways to use Facebook for business. If you know any, please feel free to post them.

If there are any BeeDragon fans out there who would like to share the love on Facebook, please head on over to the new page and click on ‘Become a Fan’.

Thanks 🙂