At the request of my mother, I have added a back to top link at the foot of every entry for this month. It will remain a feature from now on. This is the kind of commonsense sort-of-thing that often escapes me, and I'm grateful to my mother for pointing it out. In the future, she may become as important to my web design life as the new markup validator at the World Wide Web Consortium.
"I will do my best to post a bit more often," I said recently. I have totally failed on that score, haven't I? I have been inundated with work over the last week, mostly related to school. I have been working on final projects for two important courses; Internet Site Development II, which is basically about building dynamic websites with Dreamweaver, and Internet Multimedia III, which revolves around action scripting with Flash. When the work is completed, I will add them to the new portfolio section that I am working on behind the scenes.
I have been doing my best to keep abreast of the web goings-on, however. These things are all worth a mention:
- Macromedia has released details of its spiffy new version of Studio MX. Flash now has a "Professional" version, and Dreamweaver boasts better support for web standards. Macromedia are already reaping the rewards for employing Eric Meyer, who played an important role in both the shaping the CSS rendering engine, and the redesign of Macromedia's website.
- On the subject of Eric, he has set himself up in the consulting business. Complex Spiral Consulting provides a conduit through which Eric can get paid for doing what he loves. Eric is a clever man, so you can do no wrong by requesting his services.
- The direct result of my speeding foolishness was 3 points (lasting for 1 year) and a relatively small fine. The indirect result was the displeasure of my wife and an expected hike in my insurance premiums. I will try not to do that again.
- Eolas appears to have won a court case against Microsoft over the latter's infringement of this patent, entitled "Distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document". The patent describes how a browser can access and execute a remotely stored program object that has been embedded in a web page, such as an ActiveX plug in, or even the use of the
<object>element. The latter has caused rumbles in the web community, resulting in a meeting at the World Wide Web Consortium to discuss it. If the use of the
<object>element is obstructed, how is the 2.0 version of XHTML supposed to do images?
The long weekend is coming soon, so with a bit of luck I should be able to write some more.
I'm looking for a bit of work to help support my education. One of the problems with getting educated is that it leaves you little or no time to earn a living. I've been bleeding my wife dry for too long, so I'd like to find some web design work to bolster the family finances, and spice up my portfolio. If you know anyone who would like a static site built, or perhaps a modest, Access-driven dynamic site, please ask them to contact me.
My particular skills are in clean, standards-compliant HTML, XHTML, and CSS, but I also have some knowledge of SQL, ASP, and Flash. In short, my abilities suit the individual or organization requiring a simple, cost-effective web solution.
Avid readers may remember that my sister recently got married to one James Nixon. It is my pleasure to publish this wedding photograph:
Jeffrey Zeldman is a man of considerable talent. Whenever I first encounter someone I mentally classify them. I placed Zeldman in the "good web designer with penchant for orange" category. After watching his work evolve for a year or so, I was forced to take him out of that category and place him in "clever visual designer who became a clever web designer". More recently, and after reading Designing With Web Standards, I moved him into the "top drawer multimedia designer and standards evangelist with a considerable writing talent" category. Well after reading his excellent piece on how he and his wife coped with 29 hours of blacked-out New York City, I will simply reclassify him as "awesome", because there really is no limit to the man's talents.
His style of writing is peculiar; he almost always refers to himself as "we" - explaining that it gives his writing "a certain dubious and jocular authority," yet despite this, he writes with thought-provoking humanity. Brian Alvey said in a recent email that he hopes that the next Meet The Makers event will be in New York City, in the first week of December, 2003. I am hoping that this will be an opportunity to meet Jeffrey in the flesh. I want to tell him how influential he has been to me, in terms of focus and direction.
Anne van Kesteren has been nagging me to blog more often. He even applies subtle pressure when he lists me in his externals like this: jessey.net - Unfortunately not frequently updated, but if, it's interesting. I will do my best to post a bit more often, schedule permitting. A few interesting things have been going on, so I present them here, in no particular order:
- Today I passed my Pennsylvania driving test, after putting it off for far too long. I couldn't keep on driving with my British driving license, and it seemed prudent to get one before I appear in court next week over the matter of doing 78 in a 55 last month. The test was ridiculously easy and it only lasted for about 5 minutes.
- It's too damn hot for an Englishman in Pennsylvania right now. Note to self: get air conditioning serviced over the winter.
- I reduced the size of the font in my right hand navigation by a teensy weensy bit. I just felt like it.
- Large chunks of eastern North America suffered from rolling blackouts yesterday. Cities like Cleveland and Detroit are still suffering, apparently. My first thought, like everyone else's, was of terrorism. How sad that life has changed so much that we think of terrorism every time something like this happens.
- Since bleaching his hair blonde, Pat Burrell has been batting with a .375 average for the Philadelphia Phillies. I knew he'd come good eventually.
- I've been having problems with my desktop machine. I am seriously considering wiping the hard drive and reinstalling. Although such a task is an exercise in tedium, it gives me the chance to switch to Windows XP Professional. XP home doesn't have IIS, so it is pretty useless as a web development tool. I hope that I don't suffer the same problems that Mark Pilgrim did last week. I have two other desktops that the kids use, and they both need a reinstall too. Sigh.
- Although I'm basically an Internet Explorer user (it's convenient, okay?), I've been using Mozilla Firebird for some of my browsing. I read a lot of tech-related blogs, and Firebird makes a better stab at rendering them, especially some of the more esoteric blogs that include MathML and such like. I absolutely love tabbed browsing, and Firebird's implementation seems better than most. I would like to see "Paste and Go" added; one of the coolest things Opera ever introduced.
I'll be off now. I have a Phillies game to watch!
Update: I was forced to edit this post after making an idiot of myself. I have made a mental note to never make gender assumptions based on preconceived notions. My sincerest apologies to Anne van Kesteren.
I had a very interesting email conversation with Russ Weakley of Max Design about my thoughts on Macromedia Dreamweaver MX. Russ is the chair of the Web Standards Group, a Sydney-based organization that brings together developers and designers who are interested in web standards. He kindly outlined how his company employs Dreamweaver to create its many (and attractive) websites.
In a nutshell, Russ and his team divide a project into two streams. In the first instance, Photoshop is used to create a visual design that can then be sent to the client for approval. Meanwhile, Dreamweaver is used to create a fully-functional, unstyled white site, containing all the necessary content. This allows the team to construct the site by employing Dreamweaver's excellent templating and file management systems, without letting it screw around with the presentational aspects. The white site is then sent to the client for approval.
Once client approval for both streams has been given, CSS is employed to marry the two elements together. Much of this is handled by Dreamweaver's templating system. I cannot help but smile at the irony of this; a WYSIWYG tool, albeit in "Code View", is being used to create sites that truly separate their content from their visual presentation. Such sites must be semantically rich in order for the white site to be understood and approved by the client.
I have experimented with Max Design's approach over the last few days, and I can see the power of it; however, I still find Dreamweaver a bit of a pain to work with, particularly because it has, in my opinion, a lousy interface. I shall continue to work with it over the next few weeks to see if I can get comfortable with the technique.
After a three month pause, I am once again working with Macromedia's Dreamweaver MX software. This is not by personal choice, you understand, but rather because I am required to do it as part of my school program.
Described as the world's best way to create professional websites, I couldn't disagree more. No matter how much time I spend with it, Dreamweaver continues to annoy and frustrate me. As a person who relies heavily on CSS, I find Dreamweaver's "Design View" particularly useless. I am not supposed to use "Code View" unless it is absolutely necessary, but its WYSIWYG partner fails to understand anything more than basic style rules, which reminds me uncomfortably of Netscape Navigator 4.x.
Part of the problem I have is that I just don't like WYSIWYG editors. Since learning HTML 18 months ago, I have been completely comfortable with coding my pages by hand, using a text editor such as Notepad. My editor of choice is available from HTML Helper, who make several freeware and donateware applications. Unfortunately, I am required to muddle along with Dreamweaver for a while longer. This situation will be further compounded in the autumn, when I shall begin six months of ColdFusion.
My wife told me that Dreamweaver is often used for prototyping at her place of employment, because it allows the designer to drag and drop components easily. She assures me that the application is never used to actually build any web pages, however, and this comes as a great relief. I am sure that there are plenty of independent web designers who find Dreamweaver very useful, particularly for its templating abilities, but in this world of dynamic web pages and CSS, where the number of pages you have to create are reduced, I see less and less need for such applications.
While I'm on the subject, I would just like to congratulate Eric Meyer for his recent announcement that he will be working with Macromedia. Perhaps he will be able to influence the company to make changes to the way Dreamweaver works, since he is such an accomplished user of CSS.