iLife ’06

impressive, but I don’t know if it is for me

Many other blogs will be talking about the introduction of the first mactel devices. Maybe because I just got a new Mac I’m not interested, or maybe because none of my software will run natively on them. The announcement that really got me interested yesterday was the new iLife announcement.

Now, I’ve got all the high-end versions of their apps (or equivalents). However, sometimes, it is just easier to toss a project into iDVD, rather than DVD Studio Pro. There certainly isn’t anything more useful than iPhoto. Even iMovie has its uses.

It really seems like the iLife suite is coming into its own now. The integration is getting really amazing, now that the iApps are finally taking advantage of CoreVideo and CoreImage plug-ins, I can see a lot more possibilities for the future.

The problem: podcasting. With the addition of iWeb and adding the podcasting mode to GarageBand as well as the photo-casting stuff they’ve added, the goal of this rev is obvious: make it easy for everyone to do blogging/podcasting/vidcasting/etc… Now, I think that is a pretty good goal with one exception: it is all based around .Mac. Now the iLife suite has always been trying to push people towards subscribing to .Mac before, but now they are ramming it down people throats. Why isn’t there a 1-step publish in iWeb to another website? Do iWeb pages require server-side components running on the .Mac servers?

I think that the podcasting features are very cool and very well done, but I don’t need them or want them. iWeb would be cool for an occasional web page, but I don’t need or want a .Mac account. The rest of the features are also very cool, but I don’t know if they are worth upgrading the software. Then I remember that the price is $79 which is the equivalent of going to a couple movies with my wife and I realize that the few features that are really interesting to me might be worth it…


Blixa Bargeld home improvement commercials

Blixa Bargeld is one of my favorite musicians of all time, anyone who could play in both the extremely influential industrial EN and also the Bad Seeds while carrying the name of Blixa deserves your respect. He even makes German home improvement commercials look cool:

The Unit Circle Rekkids web redesign

the geeky details (design geek and tech geek!)

I just flipped the switch on the third full design of the Unit Circle Rekkids website.

The first was the sort of get-it-up-and-make-it-look-decent version. The second was the make-it-look-good-and-make-the-navigation-better site. There was some stuff I was really proud of in the second design: each “section” had a different-but-related color-scheme so that you could tell where you were in the site; I had a javascript-based navigation bar on the left that would do the dynamic layout and UI to show you what else was related to what you were looking at; finally, I worked really hard to make sure that the pages rendered well on all browsers and nearly all versions (I even ensured Netscape3 and IE3 compatibility).

This new design was all about simplifying things and making the design look tres moderne. If the second design was an architectural unfolding: Entryway, front hallway, living room, etc…; the new design is about making it easy to get the info and find what you want. The front page basically doubles as a site-map. I’ve dropped a lot of nooks and crannies designed for people who might want to explore or look for weird stuff; that was hard to keep up-to-date and wasn’t really taken advantage of much anyway. While I believed in the notion of keeping data and design separate before, this re-design nailed that into my head like never before. The new site has about 35-40 pages. There are three main designs, the main page, the artist pages and the release pages. I wasn’t adding any new content (although I was revising some of the old content). Once I had the designs set, mostly I was copying and pasting from the old pages into the new. So, it should have taken a day or two, right? Actually, it took most of a week working a few hours a day. This is due to how much the old site had the content and layout mixed, but even in that design, I’d already started using CSS. This new design is using some tables for simple layout stuff, but all the rest is 100% CSS, also I’m now using Dreamweaver templates. I’d tried using them before, but in DW8 they seem to be much simpler, or maybe I finally figured out how to use them. I know better than to rely on a proprietary technology, but they really did help and should make any future redesigns much, much simpler.

The hardest part was abandoning the super-cool nested html and javascript sidebar navigation thingy that I did. The original goal was to make adding content simpler, but it ended up being a nightmare because of the distributed nature of the code and embedded html. I’m now setting up the sidebar in a template and showing where you are using CSS. Much simpler. I do run the risk of having to redo each page by hand if I can’t use the dreamweaver templates later, but I’m not adding content to the site the way I used to before, so I’m not too worried.

I did think about switching to a database-driven website design, like I did for Unit Circle Mailorder. There were some limitations that I’m now encountering with that approach that makes me very cautious about using it again. I’m very conscious that people are linking into my site. I encourage it mightily. The problem is that I can’t go changing my URLs around willy-nilly. I have that problem with the mailorder pages now. They are all ASP pages with parameters. I’ve got to support those urls forever. So if I switch to a linux host, I’m going to have to fake those URLs. My site isn’t big enough to warrant its own servers, so I can’t do any tricks around faking directory paths being intercepted at the web server or whatever. Doing a SQL-driven site would make doing a redesign dead-simple though, so it is in the back of my head…

My New Year’s wish…

What I hope for the new year…

I think that 2005 was the year that the Republican’s chickens came home to roost. I hope that 2006 will mark the end of the American people’s patience with graft, corruption, hubris and lies. I hope to see a new democratically-elected congress in November. I hope to see Tom DeLay and Bill Frist in jail. I hope to see George Bush on permanent vacation minus the American people footing his paycheck (I want him impeached!)

However, more than likely, GWB will allow a terrorist attack or will make some claims to something or other to scare the crap out of the American people and we’ll just get more of the same: taxing the poor, giving handouts to the rich, and hastening the end of the once-great American dream.

The end of civil liberties

The president has declared that the “War On Terror” is a real war, and that in order to fight this war, he needs extraordinary powers to protect us. This rationale has been used before to validate the erosion of Civil Liberties. It has been used in places like Soviet Russia during the cold war, Italy during World War 2, Germany under the rule of the Nazis. Just as in other wars used to justify the ending of people’s rights, this war will never end. You cannot win a war on terror just like you can’t win a war on gravity. Terrorism has existed for more than 2000 years. George Bush can’t defeat it, but by using it as an excuse, he can do whatever he wants for as long as he wants including monitoring his own citizens phone calls and internet usage and targeting American citizens who are members of the Muslim religion. His claim that he is only monitoring international traffic has already been proved false. The NSA is monitoring millions of Americans with no existing or possible ties to the terrorists. They have resumed their data-mining operations that were originally shut down when they were brought to light. Bush has restarted this with no congressional approval or oversight. Indeed, this “War on Terror” is not a war. Only congress has the right to declare war, but the administration is ignoring that check on its power as well.

US Mosques checked for radiation (BBC)
Muslims angered by FBI radiation checks at mosques (Seattle Times)
Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report (New York Times)
Seattle Times editorial

Oh, and before I forget

Happy Chanukah (don’t know if I’ll be on-line tomorrow)! And to all my Christian friends, Merry Christmas! And if anyone reading this celebrates Kwanzah, Happy Kwanzah!

And to Bill O’Reilly and Pat Robertson, Happy Holidays and bite me Jackasses!

CSS-based web design vs. table-based web design

a little experiment gave me pause

As I mentioned over on my Unit Circle Blog , I’m finally redesigning the Unit Circle Rekkids site. It must be at least 4-5 years since I last redid its look and I think it’s held together pretty good over that time, but it is definitely starting to look dated. I’m definitely a curmudgeon when it comes to web design on my own sites. Up until that last redesign, I avoided using tables in my sites because they didn’t always look good on Web TV or Lynx. Now for this time I’ve been thinking that it might be time to switch from a table-based design to a CSS-based one. (I was using CSS before, but in the simplest way to standardize formatting across many pages) The arguments are compelling: keeping data and presentation separate; ease of updating the look; etc… Also I’ve seen some pretty compelling sites that are done this way. I don’t have a book yet, so I’m just using Dreamweaver 8’s CSS features and using internet resources to figure it out. It isn’t too bad, but after putting together a simple design and testing it out in a few browsers I realized that the CSS implementations are different enough that trying to do this now is going to be an exercise in pain. I’m going back to my table-based layouts with maybe a bit more CSS formatting for this go-around, I think. Once the site is up, I will post my CSS and table based prototypes somewhere and link to them here.

I think that some of the CSS sites I’ve seen are a little to pretentious about it. I don’t think that CSS was originally meant to be the end-all be-all layout system for a website in the same way that tables weren’t either. People took the capabilities of these simple ideas and extended them into doing things that they were never originally meant to be used for. CSS files were supposed to be shared across groups of pages, creating more of template-like approach for similar pages. Tables were meant to help lay out tabular data. The war against table-based design seems a little unnecessary to me, especially since CSS consistency across browsers is still be pretty weak. My table based designs look awesome on IE4, how about your CSS ones? Now, I’m not arguing for table-based design here. I’m up for using whatever tools work well and make my life simpler. I’m going to be getting a CSS book or two for Chanukah maybe and I’ll see if I was just going about it wrong. What I am against is CSS proponents pretending that their use of CSS is more than hacking in the same way that tables were hacked.

anyway, once more into the breach.

Nice Daou report

My buddy Mike sent me a link to this article on salon which is just funny and sadly true about how Bush will survive the spying scandal just like he’s survived all the others… Also, he wanted me to have full posts in my RSS feed, so here is one.

The house of representatives screws the American people and then head home to gloat about it

This is so disgusting that I almost don’t know what to say

There is so much insanity here, I don’t know where to begin. On it’s way out for the Christmas break, the house stayed up all night attaching evil amendments to important bills and cutting critical health and social programs.

I don’t even know if I can actually comment on each thing it is just leaves me speechless. I’ll just list the crap.

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was passed after it was added to a critical defense budget bill

The GOP is crowing about cutting the deficit by $40 billion which is a drop in the bucket not only of our national debt, but even in the bucket of the yearly deficit under President Bush. In that $40 billion they are so proud about cutting:

  • Medicare cut by $6.4 billion
  • Medicaid cut by $4.8 billion
  • Student loans raised to a fixed 6.8% instead of variable lower rates saving $13 Billion

So, in this big budget savings bill, they manage not only to screw over our past (cutting aid to senior citizens), but also our future (making student loans more expensive). I just can’t find the words to express how much these people hate the people they serve.

The president is spying on us

Again, the parallels between the current administration and communist-era Russia are almost frightening

So the administration has been using the guise of the war on terror to spy on its own citizens. Is anyone surprised by this? This is exactly what everyone who was actually paying attention to the Patriot Act language said was going to happen. Americans said they’d be willing to give up some civil liberties in order to be safe. Well, now you’ve given up your liberties and you aren’t any safer. Feeling cheated yet? You should be. What is actually interesting when you get into the details, is that this spying might have even been illegal within the rubric of the wiretapping laws.

It’s time once again for me to ask for a real congressional investigation, and for the Republicans to once again decide that, as President, cheating on your wife is worth of a special prosecutor and hundreds of hours of discussion, but lying to the American people, imprisoning American citizens for months without charges, torturing foreigners, spying on the American people and basically acting more like a dictator than a representative of a Democracy is A-OK.

The crazy-ass thing is that after getting caught at it, he says he’s going to keep doing it and that disclosing it was helping the enemy. These people make me insane. Bush wants to be the national father figure, but he’s the idiot dad with a drinking problem that says way too often “do what I say, not what I do.” The enemy, the enemy, doubting the administration is supporting the enemy, questioning the administration is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Cheney says “debate is good, discussion is good” while simultaneously slamming every lawmaker who steps forward to do just that.

“It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this important program in a time of war. The fact that we’re discussing this program is discussing the enemy.” – President Bush

Get this George, you work for the American people. You work for us and we’ll discuss whatever we want, whenever we want, in whatever medium or venue that we wish until you just declare yourself dictator and we get busy mobilizing against you.