Some good things end, others, well...

I started this blog primarily because a friend of mine was using hers to promote her jewelery-making business. At the time she was following other hip and trendy bloggers who inspired her to look beyond her extracurricular work life and into her real life. That in turn inspired me, and well, this blog began. Shortly afterward, I recognized the usefulness of having my own blog dedicated to my work as a technical communicator, web programmer, and multimedia aficionado, and hence the idea to merge my business and personal sides was born. While I managed to move my Tablet PC Blogs pages into the new system, I didn't want to move this one. Many of the ideas I expressed here were so blogger-specific that it didn't make sense to move them elsewhere. This deep-thinking, tech-loving, writer, artist, musician, husband, father, and average joe now travels his headspace in a different world. Truly, Jake the Spud has left the building.

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The age of the "cute" 404 page

I've been busy. Really busy. Still, I managed to catch the Massive Technology Trade Show and Conference in March. While the presentations I saw were really good, I was inspired, to say the least, by Kate Trgovac's talk, a crash course on social networking tools, including but not limited to blogging, tagging, professional network sites, and virtual worlds.

On a whim, I checked her current blog entry and had to laugh at the thought that we are entering the age where user-friendly design is going haywire. Forget M$'s "friendly error pages"... this one takes the kate! (I mean, cake!)

Just for fun I went to find an error page on Kate's site, and she doesn't have anything installed. I guess even she realizes the silliness of the whole idea.

For more fun, check out MY linkedin profile if you dare!

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When it rains, it pours!

A few months ago I started taking my family to a new church that’s closer to home. We had a great send-off from our old church and now we’re totally plugged in. It was definitely God’s will to move: all the confirmation signs are there. We have a great relationship with the pastors and other members of the congregation, and our friendships are growing by leaps and bounds.

Strangely enough, a lot of the people we know in this church are involved in an online network marketing system called Quixtar, (formerly Amway). Actually, to hear them talk about it, Quixtar is just the vehicle — there are actually several network marketing systems built around the Quixtar distribution machine.

What makes this strange is that when I met my wife, she was involved in the World Wide Dream Builders organization, which at the time used the Amway business model that eventually migrated to Quix. In fact, she was introduced to our previous church by a contact she met at a large WWDB function. Our old church was full of people involved in some form of Quix, mostly WWDB.

After five years of marriage we pulled the plug on our Quix affiliation for a number of reasons. To name only a few:

  • I prefer to buy from a range of product lines, and Amway products aren’t part of that
  • I work in Logistics, and understand the law of diminishing profits due to increased middlemen
  • The products are too expensive, due to the increasing numbers involved in the distribution chain
  • The bonus cheques are a pittance until you really move a lot of product

The way I explained it to our upline when accused of misunderstanding the business model: “The system cannot continue to function when everybody is a part of it. Somebody, somewhere down the line, has to have a separate JOB in order to bring new money into the system and pay all the residual bonus cheques of those who have gone on before them.”

I thought we’d escaped the whole AmQuix thing when we went to a different church, but because there are 1/5 the amount of people in our new church, the percentage of people involved in Quix appears higher compared to our old church.

That said, I’m highly appreciative of the fact that the people in our new church aren’t pushy — at least so far.

However, I have a personality that seems to attract all varieties of network marketing schemes, especially AmQuix. I have been approached or introduced to the product line for as long as I can remember:

  • My aunt let us try the kit because her friends were involved
  • My best friend took me for coffee to meet his prospective upline (he didn’t sign)
  • My then-girlfriend, now wife, had me drive her to product pickup and attend various functions over 5 years
  • On one of our first dates, I met a past friend from high school who was playing pool with his upline, a guy my wife knew about
  • Another guy who was a real upstart in high school became high up in the business
  • A guy I met at a swimming pool approached me, apparently by mistake, and took advantage of the contact to tell me about “the business”
  • A fellow member of a volunteer choir had the entire gamut of products in his overnight bag
  • While browsing the bulletin board at a grocery store, another browser just started prospecting me out of the blue
  • (I’m pretty sure I saw this guy just a month earlier drawing the circle plan on a napkin for someone at a restaurant)
  • The various people at my old church
  • The various people at my new church

And now, as a shocker completely out of left field:

  • Tonight, a guy who I met years ago at one of those fancy functions my wife dragged me to, who used to be high up in the WWDB system, called me on behalf of a friend of mine to introduce me to the INA variant of the Quix business model

What is it with Quix? Why can’t they just leave me alone????

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More fussin' with Blogger's mind

A friend of mine was having problems aligning inline images with space betwixt in blog posts using the blog composer. Some ideas we tossed around included:

  1. image tags one per line (in most cases should render with space betwixt)
  2. spacing out the images inline with space
  3. spacing out the images inline with  

  5. defining inline style rules for the images
  6. setting the images in a table
  7. invisible spacer GIFs

I'm sure there are more methods to try, but most of our efforts were stripped out by blogger, namely the &nbsp; trick and the <style> temporary redefining CSS rules fix. I guess I could modify the template itself but where's the fun in that?

In practice the table allows for the content to scroll over the sidebar if necessary. Depending on desired effect, it works. I'm placing my bets that the inline style rule will work the best.

Other than that there is really nothing to report on my super-secret website project. Mac browsers actually work better at rendering certain things than PC. Unfortunately, Mac browsers under OS9 actually fall apart when loading flash movies because the flash always sits on top of all other content. Try navigating a dropdown menu behind the header bar. Eww.

Flash offers other weirdness as well, which warrants the possibility of a complete entry devoted to that.

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No Time Like the Present

After the last entry I really felt like turning off my computer and moving to some small rural community without electricity, running water, natural gas, or even a toilet. The non-technological hermit lifestyle became increasingly more appealing as I fought with getting a website to maintain basic functionality and appearance with minimal scripting on the two latest incarnations of IE on the Mac.

Web developers like myself hit pay dirt with the x library freely availalable from www.cross-browser.com. Michael Foster is a genius, and he gives away his code as a forum for sharing ideas, so long as any improvements or modifications to his library are also freely shared.

I should report to him the one small glitch I stumbled on while working on this project: IE/Mac 5.0 - 5.1.7 (the latest on OS9) doesn't seem to respond to the cross-browser variant of document.getElementsByTagName; or at least not when used within the function built to select all the elements by stylesheet class name. As sifting through tagname elements is probably the only DOM-based methods that all later generation browsers can handle fairly consistently, I broke down and used this method instead of the x function.

And voila: the website now has drop-down menus and rollover images, all triggered by a window.onload handler that finds elements of particular classes and assigns onmouseover and onmouseover event functions to them. Even on IE/Mac for OS9.

It's funny how Apple was so far advanced on the Mac for practically everything, including the integration of a classic OS9 interface within OSX, but IE/Mac 5.0 - 5.1 doesn't respond the same way as IE/Mac 5.2.

Next is to figure out some tricks to get Flash to display properly across platforms. Now even transparent areas block out the screen content behind them. That's not right.

The war isn't over yet.

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Take My Mac, Please

A couple of entries below I alluded to a new project I'm on which is taxing both the Windows AND Macintosh sides of my brain, and it was really starting to make my head hurt. It's like the very notion I might not win my war against these browsers made me more determined to get it done. The browser war is hardly over, and if you think the casualties in this war are the specific browser manufacturers themselves you are sadly mistaken.

The common practice in standards-based web markup is to separate content from presentation, and to develop for the most compliant browsers first, adding hacks to fit the quirks of more rebellious browsers. That way we can use one style sheet with a couple of tweaks as opposed to a different stylesheet for each browser. However my problem was that while Mozilla Firefox and IE6 rendered my CSS/javascript code perfectly, Netscape 7 didn't. NS7 was the standard to base on, and it didn't work.

On the Mac, Safari was even worse. I had some hidden layers that appeared when you rolled your mouse over sections of the screen, but there seemed an invisible box in the middle of the screen obstructing the view when they popped up. Like what was up with that? At least ie5.2 worked not too badly. Strange, considering ie is supposed to be the rebellious middle child on all platforms.

I was just about ready to give up all hope and post a generic version of my lament to my favourite CSS forums, when in my quest to simplify my scripts I stumbled on the position: static descriptor. To this point I had only used absolute or relative. Little did I know that static is what I needed for this to work.

Armed with this new weapon, I regained my courage and waged war yet again, and with even more determination plugged in my position: static descriptors and I WAS VICTORIOUS. My CSS and javascript now worked on IE5.5 (wow), IE6, NS7, MozFF1.x, IE5.2/mac, AND Safari!


But as I said earlier, the casualties in any war are rarely the leaders of the countries, but the civilians. Some (like me) who set out for battle, and others like yourself who are faced with rebuilding from the damage. The enemy wasn't aware the war was over and they lobbied yet another attack. Macintosh IE5.1 - my javscript doesn't work, and the positioning of certain elements looks plain terrible.

Well, time to suit up again...

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Quick & Dirty Metric Conversion

More options will come as I play with this. This was more a test of what blogger allowed me to post. I only do simple javascript-y things though, so I hope they don't lock out the little features they allow. I'm not dangerous. Honest!

Enter a value:
Select conversion:

Note: Result is calculated when you select a conversion method. If you wish to use the same conversion method on multiple conversions, click the result box for new calculation.jake the spud loads a function into browser memory

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A little test of Blogger's Capabilities

Okay. I tried to play a little game where I created a unit of measure converter that used javascript, and I tried to post it in a blog. Unfortunately, blogger.com is smart, and doesn't allow the <script> tag in posts. So I thought I'd get around it by writing my code inline based on user actions. Unfortunately, it couldn't post those either.

Then I realized that I may just be having difficulty with my web host mysteriously losing the ftp account I'd set up for blogger to use. We'll have to see how the support tech's experiment is going.

Note: I think this metric convertor thing is so cool, I'll give it its own blog entry. For now, enjoy this little inline javascript test:

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Why in the world do I stay up so late?

Today was an amazing day. Full of worship and revelation with lots of time invested in my family. After supper the computer time was mine. I found out that a css/dynamic javascript drop down menu script I hacked together doesn't work for Netscape 7. Strange, considering it worked well in Mozilla Firefox AND IE6. I was already told that it didn't work on a Mac at all, so I've got loads more work ahead of me.

Through the W3C validation pages I learned I forgot to close my </head> tag. How stupid was that? No wonder lots of browsers kakked.

So. The reminder is, I should STOP CODING WHEN I CAN BARELY KEEP MY EYES OPEN. I obviously worked too late when I hacked the parts together that I got sloppy. Of course, this rule does not apply when it comes to cleaning out my email folders or installing new blog software on my server. Those tasks can be done irrespective of my ability to see the screen clearly. Like now.

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