Random postcard of the day, pt.1

Postcard photograph of people gathered around a swimming pool; a man is diving.

I don’t collect postcards so much as acquire them, and then don’t throw them out. I’ve got loads of them in my desk drawer.

You just never know when they might come in handy. Like … erm, when you want to pretend that you are enjoying an 80s-style holiday in UstroÅ„, Poland.

I have no idea why I have that postcard. (It must have been in a booklet of postcards. Notice the torn perforations down the side.) As far as I know, I don’t know anyone who’s been on holiday in Poland; besides it’s blank on the other side. I’ve never been to Poland.

And to be honest, thanks to that postcard I now don’t have to — I now know what it’s like. It looks like a lovely, relaxed kind of place, where men can hover for 20 years, much to the amusement of bystanders around (and in) the pool.

The pool is Basen kÄ…pielowy, just in case it looked familiar.

Look! Magic Eric in a fez

The Jack of Spades playing card, with a photograph of Eric Masters wearing a fez.

I’ve been clearing out my desk drawer today — I have a planners’ desk so the main drawer is almost the same size as the area of the desktop — and I discovered a number of out-dated business cards.

One of the business cards was from Eric Masters, aka Magic Eric, a friend of Danny Wallace, whom we met a few Edinburgh Fringe Festivals ago.

How delighted was I to discover this photograph on his site, of Magic Eric wearing a fez.

A great !DOCTYPES resource

Doctypes table showing information about how browsers support different codes

Whenever I’m developing a new website and I encounter something that just doesn’t look right when I compare how it renders on different browsers, one of the first things that I check is the !DOCTYPE of the document.

There’s been a major push in recent years for websites to validate, that is the code behind them should be written to a standard, that follows the proper rules as set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). And one of the conditions for a webpage to validate is that it contains the correct Doctype for the kind of page that it is presenting. The Doctype essentially tells the browser which rules to follow when rendering a page on the screen. (And you thought that web browsers were simple pieces of software!)

Besides the Doctype list at W3C I’ve found this page to be very useful: Doctypes and their respective layout mode.

The page author, Matthias Gutfeldt, has presented a very useful, usable table indicating how different web browsers handle each Doctype declaration. I have ‘printed’ this page to PDF to keep on my PC as a resource, even when I’m not connected to the Net — I’ve copied it to my Psion too. A fine resource.

CSS walk-through tutorial

Snippet of CSS code
Snippet of CSS code.

For those who’ve ever wanted to get into Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) coding, but never quite got around to it, or couldn’t quite grasp what it was all about; or perhaps you just want to know what it is that some of us coders are going on about, Albino Blacksheep’s Live Design tutorial is for you.

What is CSS?

In recent years there has been a drive to separate the content from the design of web pages. That way updates to the look of a site can be made quickly and efficiently. This is done largely using Cascading Style Sheets: text files that explain to the web browser how to present the information on a page, eg make all links blue and underlined, make all headings black, Arial and 24 pt, etc. That way one change of the code in one file can update the look of an entire website.

There is a really good introduction to CSS at www.cssbasics.com. To see a website being transformed step-by-step with CSS look no further than Albino Blacksheep.

In 18 steps Albino Blacksheep (for that must be his/her name) walks visitors through the redesign of the ABS website.

From…

You can see how ABS started like this, with a basic, ‘no-frills’ marked-up page…

screenshot

To…

… to this, graphically pleasing offering. Using nothing more than the power of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

screenshot

CSS Zen Garden

Another impressive site, for those who’re unfamiliar with it, is the CSS Zen Garden. The premise of this site is that within each design the HTML page code is always the same, all the designers are allowed to change is the CSS file. Impressive stuff.

Psion / Outlook synchronization tip

I’ve been meaning to blog this for ages; someone on one of the Psion groups pointed me to it.

It’s a small application that I now use when synchronizing my Psion Series 5mx (or Psion Series 7) with Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 called Express ClickYes.

Longtime Psion users will remember that synchronizing their Agenda and Contacts with Outlook 2000 was simple: you plugged in the Psion, ran the PsiWin synchronizer and it did its job with no interruptions.

All that changed when Microsoft introduced new security features in Service Packs 1, 2 and 3 for Office 2000. Now when you try to synchronize Outlook gets all paranoid and checks to see if it’s a virus or worm trying to plunder your e-mail contacts list.

Screenshot of Outlook security window, asking for access to e-mail addresses

Which is fair enough, but it can be annoying if all you are doing is trying to synchronize your contacts list and diary, and you are running a fairly tight ship, in terms of internet security.

Express ClickYes is an application that when run (and activated, by right-clicking the Notification Area/System Tray icon and clicking “Resume”) automatically answers YES when the pop-up dialog appears.

I find it really useful for when I set my Psion and Outlook to sync while I go and have a shower in the morning, or when I’m busy doing something else around the house. That way I don’t have to lurk by my PC and wait to click Yes. Express ClickYes does it for me … as the name might suggest. It’s a useful tool to have in your Psion/Outlook arsenal.