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Archive for February, 2006

Discriminative Web Sites

Firefox in the dock

THERE is a certain stigma or two among Web designers. Blaming of Web design be attributed to miscomprehension of design principles. Take for example some astigmatic accessibility issues, among other key factors such as browser ‘racism’. These mistakes illusrate clumsiness in Web design and infuriate minorities, which comprise equally-important Net citizens.

Pedagogues in the field of design are either unaware of accessibility matters, or they cannot be bothered with them. In due time, they recommend Flash, user-agent (Web browser/reader) sniffing and the like — all of which are bad practices for the large majority of sites, if not all. It is dishonourable to many users who must suffer due to such cretins, owing to laziness in learning and implementation.

Then comes the issue of content, which can assume user proficiency at times and thus leaves many surfers baffled. The author must escort the less technically-inclined hand-in-hand. For example, one should always abstain from equivocal text that does not attempt to clarify the main points made. In my sites, I tried to incorporate a full ‘acronym striping’ facility, using style sheets. Those of us to whom English is not the mother’s tongue should hopefully be able to digest the key points.

In summary, there seems to be dissociation and estrangement when it comes to the small majority of visitors or customers, i.e. there is no desire to give contentment to all. This is one of the biggest crimes committed in Web development, authoring and design, more so in cases where the site gives exclusive information, e.g. where it serves as a gatway to governmental agencies.

Favourites and Friction

PEOPLE’S opinions and favourite choices are respresentative of their individuality. Mocking these things is like mocking the person. In practice, admitting that you detest a particular film or song would upset anyone who likes it, not only those involved in the production. To expand on this point, merely anything we choose is a representation of our choice and judgement, so it can be a person’s default search engines or primary operating system.

One way to be liked by others is to praise everything they like and stay quiet otherwise. Either like everything, remain impartial and rave about nothing that gets you hyped up. An outspoken character has very few merits, but we sometimes need to unburden ourselves and be critical.

Accelerated X Draws Competition

Spherical desktop

Wallpaper from Houghi (click image above
to enlarge; non-lossy PNG version)

With Novell’s release of XGL and Red Hat’s answer to all that eye candy, one begins to wonder if flame wars could awake over X — an Open Source graphics and interaction component.

An advantage to free software is that it is an environment where competition can thrive, choice is always available and different solutions exist for the same problem. However, it’s also fair to say that free software is disadvantaged where competition breeds, choices are forced on unsuspecting users and diverse technologies fight each other.

Related item: Next Generation of X

Student Talks

First mode of an appearance model of the brain

THIS afternoon I will present Assessing the Accuracy of Non-Rigid Registration with and without Ground Truth (HTML version). The talk is part of a local symposium that involves all Ph.D. students in the Division. The presentation is a gross re-use of a previous presentation file and I was not using OpenOffice out of choice, I feel compelled to add.

I always attempt to use preparation time effectively. It seems most valuable to practice and rehearse on the day of the talk by getting familiar with the slides, remembering its flow, and having a clue about time constraints. I believe that, in order to stay fresh in one’s mind, this cannot be done days in advance; not effectively anyway. I will also stick to the habit of having a prominent-yet-discreet PDA unfolded with a timer in front of me while talking.

Aggregating Feeds

RSSOwl screenshot

YESTERDAY I received an E-mail from a stranger. The message contained a much-sought-for answer to a question which I had asked several weeks ago. This came to show the advantages of asking questions in public forums (news:alt.www.webmaster). What was my question then? Well, my intent was to merge multiple feeds and deliver them as just one aggregated feed. There were issues with implementation of such tools:

  • Formats and versioning, e.g. Atom, RSS v. 1, RSS v. 2
  • Tolerance for invalidity of feeds
  • Sorting in merger based on category/time

I wound up finding RSS Merge, which enabled me to compose the following page. It combines various feeds from my main domain. Another Open Source package that is worth mentioning would be Planet. My only complaint (wishlist item rather) is that the tools do not deliver aggregated output in feed form. They are merely echoed as Web pages.

Mailing Lists Statistics

Wikipedia statistics

THIS item serves as a brief introduction and a pointer to a mailing list analysis tool. The tool in question is capable of producing statistics for mail that is stored in a standardised form, namely the MBOX format. The tool is called MailListStat, MLS being the memorable abbreviation.

I am currently generating statistics for mailing lists where I am most active, but there is a pitfall. Messages are not always RFC-compliant and, as a result, a certain number of messages gets discarded by MLS. Consequently, statistics do not reflect on the true figures and facts. I have changes the code and re-compiled it, but it was a “mend-and-break” situation. I could never get the desired results and only borked the package progressively. So, eventually I chickened out and aborted my initiative. The author of the tools admits there are some issues related to message headers interpretation. In the mean time, it seems as though I definitely gave up on this.

UPDATE: As of this morning, I am able to use the tool perfectly well. By saving mailing list archives in Horde/IMP, I am able to make the header both uniform and acceptable as input to MLS.

Related item: Newsgroups Statistics

‘Origami’: Ultraportable PC?

iPod head
Can Origami become an iPod killer?

WE are all yet to hear about “Origami”. It is now at its ‘rumour stage’, but it is said to be a revolutionary piece of equipment from Microsoft. “Origami” could probably a miniature wearable (thus the name) hardware that is connected to a centralised network. CNET have some details.

Like Slashdot and other blogs and online forums, we, too, are getting tips about a new Microsoft concept gadget codenamed “Origami” that we understand is sort of a “Mini Me” PC.

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