Michael Maclean
Monday, February 28, 2005
I've begun to realise that while CSS is quite good at some things, it's also really horribly bad at doing others. I'm going to use as evidence the number of websites that have sprung up to offer tips about using HTML and CSS properly—people like A List Apart, Eric Meyer, and the site that kicked off this thought, The Man In Blue. All of these are very good sites, and always very informative, but some of the techniques they advocate are a bit strange. They usually rely on using bugs in some browsers that don't exist in others to create workarounds for problems.

In a recent post, The Man In Blue describes a way to get HTML forms to line up properly and look semi-decent using CSS. This is something that is dead simple to do using tables, but we're not supposed to use those for layout any more. I agree for the most part, but every time I have to do a form that's more than just a text box and a submit field, I end up putting it in a table as it's the quickest and easiest way to make it look decent. It can usually be argued that it is tabular data, it's just that most of it is provided by the user. And it's not just forms—these websites also advocate the use of mad hacks in order to get round broken CSS implementations in browsers, and sometimes of dispensing with tables even for things that should be in tables. Argh! I'm glad I don't have to do this kind of thing full time. I think my opinion on CSS is best described by the phrase "It's better than the alternative", as Cory Doctorow and the EFF are fond of saying. It's still not particularly nice though.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
I've finally got my Mac back, after a three-and-a-half week holiday at Camp Scotsys in Bellshill. Apparently it was the logic board, so they ordered a replacement. This turned out to be dead on arrival so another was ordered and installed on Monday the 14th of February - this is where the fun began. I phoned on Tuesday, and was told it would be back in Edinburgh on Wednesday. I went to the shop and was told it was on test, and that I'd have it back on Thursday. I phoned on Thursday, and they said it was still on test and that it'd be back on Friday. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) I then called on Friday to see if they'd finally got it back, and they hadn't. Apparently the engineer decided to do one last check on it and it missed the van going to Edinburgh, so I could have it back on Monday. At this point I lost it (though not swearing or anything) and asked why I'd been told it'd be back on Wednesday when they hadn't any intention of sending it back then - they told me the logic board had only been fitted on Wednesday, contradicting what the shop had told me before. They then said that I could have it back if I came to Bellshill to collect it. I hung up.

I then realised I knew someone with a car who would probably be willing to take me there, so I called him - he was OK with it, so I offered to pay the petrol and off we went. I got there and retrieved it without too much incident, though I asked for a copy of all the data they had relating to that case in their CRM (as I'm allowed to under the Data Protection Act) so I can work out who was being incompetent. I won't be dealing with them again.

My Muvo also decided to die last Friday for a while too, just for some attention. It kept coming up "Media Error" any time I tried to do anything with it, even in recovery mode. I suspected the hard drive was dead and got ready to moan at Creative, but then I got home and charged it and it awoke, though without its firmware - I had tried to re-flash it earlier to see if that would help. I don't have a Windows machine so I had to wait till Monday to get one I could use with administrator-level access. I flashed it with the European firmware, which worked fine but even at maximum volume it wouldn't drive the headphones as loud as it did before with the volume about half way up. Evidently, the European firmware has a limiter to stop people blowing their ears off, so after re-flashing with the American firmware all was well.

Damn technology. At least now I can get back to playing with Mr Tascam.

On a happier note, on Tuesday I'm off to see the Doves in the Corn Exchange here in Edinburgh - should be a good gig. I'll have to give their new stuff a listen before I go though. I've also got tickets for Kasabian in April, and a rescheduled Ben Folds gig sometime in June, I think. Not as mad as November 2003 (6 bands in 2 weeks) but it'll have to do while I'm meant to be doing my dissertation.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Argh. My iBook has decided to give me problems. It'll run fine for most of about 5 minutes, then the display will go blank (though the backlight is still on), and any audio stops too suggesting the machine itself has frozen. I ran Apple's hardware test CD but it also froze with some odd stripes down the display suggesting the logic board problem that has affected a lot of machines since the G3s. Damn. Even more annoying, it would crash in Firewire target disk mode, where you start the machine up as a big Firewire hard drive, so I wasn't able to get my files off as easily as I'd have liked.

Also been reading a couple of things about how people do podcasts. Both the articles I've seen so far (here and here) have been ridiculously overcomplicated using loads of different applications cobbled together. Why don't they use something like Audacity to do it for free? It's got noise filters to get rid of the hum that built-in mics tend to have and other random background noises, it can do EQ to make things sound a bit better, it can convert to MP3, it's not Mac-specific either. GarageBand is good at what it does but it's daft to use it for something as basic as a podcast. I can see using Audio Hijack Pro being good if you want to use Skype for a conversation though. I have Audacity and my iBook (when it returns) has a built-in mic, as do a lot of machines these days. Or, if I wanted to do overkill, I'd get my Tascam US-122 and my Shure SM57 out. I'm not likely to ever do a podcast but if I did that'd be what I'd use.
I talked to the computer, it hates me

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