My new PC arrived, however …

Cube247 Scorpius ST10 PC

This afternoon my new PC arrived. The company had said that it would be here before 4:00 pm, and sure enough at 3:56 pm the delivery van pulled up outside and delivered five boxes of shiny new technology.

This evening I unpacked the boxes only to discover that I can’t connect both monitors. Here are the connectors that I have:

Monitor input

  1. VGA (D-Sub)
  2. DVI-D Single Link

Graphics card output (Asus GeForce 8800GT)

  1. DVD-I Dual Link
  2. DVD-I Dual Link
  3. HDTV-out


  1. VGA (D-Sub) to VGA (D-Sub)
  2. VGA (D-Sub) to VGA (D-Sub)


  1. VGA (D-Sub) to DVI-I (Bundled with Asus graphics card)

In other words I only have two VGA-to-VGA cables but no VGA outputs on the PC to plug them into. At most I can connect one monitor using the converter but then it won’t be a digital-to-digital connection, which I’m sure will be a faster, sexier connection.

I’ll get on the phone tomorrow to Cube 247 and try to resolve this. A simple oversight, I’m sure. You’d think that if they were selling a dual-monitor system then you’d be able to connect both monitors straight out of the box. Especially if you’re paying over a grand for it.


Friday 25 January 2008

I had a look in graphics card manual after I’d posted this last night and discovered that it reckoned that the graphics card had

  1. VGA (D-Sub)
  2. DVD-I Dual Link
  3. HDTV-out

as well as the VGA-to-DVI converter. That offers one explain why I’m one connector down: the graphics card hardware has been changed but perhaps the PC manufacturer hadn’t fully realised this.

Update #2

I called Cube247 — it was a simple omission, and a second VGA-to-DVI converter will be posted out to me today. That is after all what I’ve paid for.

I’ve also ordered myself two new Belkin Pro DVI-D to DVI-D cables so that I get a better image. (I think that’s how it works!)

Update #3

The second VGA-to-DVI converter arrived the following morning, on Saturday. Great service from Cube247.


Disconnected wire

Got home from the carol service last night (more about that in a future post) to discover that we had no telephone or broadband connection: no dial tone.

A quick call to BT Faults (0800 800 151 — omit initial zero if calling from a mobile phone) revealed that the problem lay at the exchange, and wouldn’t be fixed until today sometime (Wednesday). I pray that they do reconnect us quickly.

Still, a courteous service from BT with friendly support staff.


Our phone line was reconnected at 10:50, with a courteous call to Jane from Team BT to pass on the good news.

Mozilla Firefox fixed our 404

Broken 404 page
Before: 404 Page shown in Firefox

404 page
After: 404 Page shown in Firefox

Remember that problem we had a couple of weeks back when we updated to Firefox Latest version of Firefox broke our 404 page?

Well, it turns out that it was indeed a problem with Firefox The good news, though, is that it’s now been fixed in Firefox, which was released yesterday (1 November).

There’s a good write-up about this on the Mozilla Developer News site: Firefox update to be updated. I certainly appreciate their honesty:

The release fixed some 200 issues, but accidentally regressed a few things. Most users won’t see any difference or experience any problems, and those 200 fixes make the update very valuable, but you should never have to choose functionality over security.

Looks like it was this bug that broke our pages, including the University homepage: Bug 400406 – Layout badly broken in, CSS issue with floats or negative margins or display property…

Good work folks, at finding and eliminating the fix.

Latest version of Firefox broke our 404 page

Broken web page

The latest version of Mozilla Firefox, I’m sorry to report, broke a couple of our web pages yesterday.

UPDATE: This problem has now been fixed in Firefox see Firefox update to be updated

I noticed it just as I was about to go out for lunch. I was checking out a page on the University website and followed a broken link … to a broken 404 page.


At first I simply suspected that it was due to some CSS tinkering that either my colleague or I had done. But neither of us had done any.

And then I discovered that it was working fine in Firefox 1.5, IE6, IE7, Opera 9 and Safari 3. It was working fine in my colleague’s installation of Firefox … and then when he restarted the browser to allow its automatic update to version it promptly broke.

So the culprit was indeed the latest incarnation of my favourite browser. How disappointing.

The problem

The way that the page is constructed is that there is a div that wraps the page’s main content. If I was recoding it today, I’d call it #contentWrapper; when I coded it 10 months ago, I called it #main.

Within #main there are three other divs, in order:

  1. #content
  2. #sidebar
  3. #related_content

#main then has a background image of part of the University crest. How much of the crest is displayed depends entirely on the height of its three internal divs.

Only, this appears to be the problem that Firefox has highlighted/discovered/introduced* (*delete as applicable): it now does not recognize the height of the internal divs: #content, #sidebar and #related_content and so collapses, as you can see from the screenshot above.

The (temporary) fix

Introducing a min-height CSS attribute to the code has temporarily fixed the problem, but fixed the height of #main at 550px — enough for the 404, 401 and the front page, which all use that code.


I’m now working on a more robust fix … in fact, I’m now working on recoding the entire site to make it more usable by the few ancient browsers that Google Analytics informs us are still being used to visit the site, such as Firefox 1.0, Firefox 1.5, and various older versions of Netscape and IE.

I had used a variation of Matthew Levine’s In Search of the Holy Grail method on A List Apart, mixed with a Dan Cederholm’s Faux Columns approach, for a number of reasons:

  1. I wanted the site to be as accessible as possible, and decided that placing the main page content as high in the source code as possible would be helpful.
  2. Do you know how difficult it is to achieve something as seemingly simple as creating a page layout with three equal-height columns?
  3. The ‘holy grail’ approach worked for almost everything we needed until it came to wanting to jump down to page anchors. We had a couple of A-Z lists and wanted to be able to click on ‘D’ to take us down to the ‘D’ entries. Instead, it pulled ‘D’ up to the top of the page and made A-C disappear completely!!
  4. We decided to fully support only modern browsers: IE6 and IE7, Firefox, Safari/Konqueror and Opera 8 and above. (While I don’t class IE6 as a modern browser it’s the one used on about 75% of all the university PCs so we had no choice but to support it.)

I guess I now need to be finishing writing these fixes sooner rather than later. I’m just a little disappointed that the latest version of my favourite browser has broken the code, while Safari, Opera 9 and even IE7 saw fit to render it as expected.

However, what I’m not entirely certain about is whether Firefox is now simply rendering the code as it should be (in other words, I’d missed a trick with my code) or whether this genuinely is a fault with Firefox’s rendering. Time will tell.

PC absolution

Windows XP Professional

Yesterday, just about lunchtime, I finished writing my sermon for this morning on the theme of “letting go (and letting God)”. About an hour later I found myself letting go of my old, increasingly corrupted installation of Windows XP Professional on my desktop PC.

My PC has now been forgiven, is absolved of all its dodgy registry settings and bloated system files and I feel quite relieved — like a burden has been lifted.

I’d been aware that I was needing to do this for some time, but just didn’t have the time. But yesterday morning my applications were revolting. Outlook crashed about every 5 minutes, Firefox crashed every second page I browsed to. It was time.

Device drivers must be getting better: this was the smoothest, most hassle-free reinstallation of Windows XP that I’ve ever had. I had a bit of bother with my onboard NVidia soundcard, but once I installed the correct drivers it’s been plain sailing ever since.


I even managed to create a Norton Ghost 2003 disk image of the Windows XP partition with just Windows, device drivers and Windows Updates installed. Something to roll-back to just in case.

I’ve used Ghost before — it basically takes a snapshot of your hard drive (or partition) so that you can quickly restore it as and when you need to. That way you can return your PC to a predefined state of health. I used it quite a bit when I had Windows 98se. I could restore my PC in a little over 30 minutes, which was much better than taking 2 days out to wrestle with installation CDs and device drivers.

What I’ve learned…

What I’ve learned so far is

  1. It is a good thing to reinstall Windows XP every couple of years to get rid of Windows-bloat and return my PC to its speedy-goodness
  2. I have no idea where my Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI installation CD-ROMs are
  3. Adobe Acrobat 7 requires a reboot after each and every update

Off to watch Scotland v Argentina now, while videoing the new series of Top Gear on BBC 2.