Archive for 2004

Boston-Area Web Standards Job

My friend and former boss is trying to find you. EH Publishing (a Boston-based publisher of magazines and trade shows covering the connected home industry) is seeking a Web Standards Expert/Production Manager to join their team. And I quote the description verbatim:

EH Publishing is looking for an outstanding
person to fill a crucial role. As the Production Manager you’ll be
handling the constant production work flow for all of our sites, as
well as building and designing new sites and sections. Working with
all departments within EH, this is a key role that requires both the
right skills and the right attitude. You’ve got to love web standards
and be fully committed to delivering the best code and UI possible.
You need to be able to juggle multiple sites, projects, and handle any
type of personality that comes your way. Finally, you need to be
willing to accept change and new challenges without missing a beat. My
order of preference for skills? 1. attitude, 2. project
management/production skills, 3. standards knowledge and ability, and
4. design. Preferably you’ll have a good mix of it all.

What can we offer you? A chance to work with an organization that is
growing fast and is totally committed to building first class web
sites to match their award winning magazines and trade shows. You’ll
be one of the first members of a new team that will retool and grow
the web offerings of EH Publishing. We’ve been in business for 10
years, we’re privately held, very profitable, and currently at about
50 employees. This is a great opportunity to build sites which will be
highly visible and very important to all aspects of our business.

If you’re interested, I’d love to hear from you. Email Rob Roesler: rob
[at] ehpub dot com

This is a great opportunity for someone who is looking to hone their web standards skills on a variety of cool sites. If you’re in the market for a new job, be sure to check it out.

When Can We Hide From IE5/Win?

Maybe it was the tiramisu talking, but Doug, Ethan and I were having a conversation recently, where we half-joked about hiding styles from IE5/Win. Extreme? Too early? It’s a question I’ve been pondering a bit, and Ethan’s been thinking about it even more, with his decision to hide his site’s CSS from IE5/Mac.

bar graphMy curiosity lies in browser stats. Naturally, here at SimpleBits, I’m told that 2% of all traffic comes here by way of IE5/Win. Surely, a percentage low enough to begin thinking about hiding styles — but the readers here, are highly skewed. What I’m more interested in, is getting a rough estimate on the perecentage of IE5 users across the web in general. What is IE5/Win’s percentage on high-traffic, mainstream sites these days? The number can only be going down.

Thanks to Paul Maiorana, my colleague over at Fast Company, I can tell you that roughly 4% of their users visit using IE5/Win. The audience for FC is skewed as well, and so my hope is that you’ll do a little investigating of your own, and perhaps we can pull together a non-scientific poll on the state if IE5. Feel free to leave numbers in the comments.

I can remember early on in my experimentation with CSS, thinking it was risky and crazy to hide styles from Netscape 4 — that was years ago, and the amount of users at that time was roughly 2% as well. At what point can we say it’s been long enough for the next browser in line?

IE5/Win’s support of CSS2 is far from perfect, yet it is possible to get things looking close to other standards-aware browsers. But that consistency doesn’t happen without added time, frustration and necessary hacks and workarounds. Up until now, I haven’t thought twice about not trying to get things looking the same in IE5/Win. But can you imagine being Box Model Hack free? Can you imagine just not having to worry about the poor support for CSS that adds a significant amount of time to the development process?

You could also imagine sending IE5/Win a basic set of CSS rules that does everything but layout — much in the way that Doug was suggesting a basic stylesheet that all devices (including handhelds) could render that’s devoid of anything too complicated. IE5/Win is capable of complex CSS — but it comes at a price that we’re all well aware of.

So when will it be time? For me here at this site, it could very well be tomorrow, or next month. 2% is a comfortable number. And that 2% will be always be able to read and use the site without any loss in functionality. We’re never talking about cutting people out, rather we’re talking about moving forward — and perhaps taking as many people along as we can. Lots of questions. Lots to think about.

The Official SimpleBits T-Shirt

Almost in time for the holidays. An official SimpleBits t-shirt is now available. Following the lead of Daring Fireball (you do have a DF shirt, don’t you?), I’ve long thought it’d be cool to make available a high-quality silk-screened shirt (and I thank Mr. Gruber for his sage advice on t-shirt logistics). That day has finally come.

t-shirtThis is not a mediocre iron-on, but rather a 100% heavyweight cotton Hanes® Beefy-T® in Stonewashed Blue, with the SimpleBits blocks and typeface in three-color screened print. This t-shirt also validates as XHTML 1.0 Garment. A new standard in clothing quality.

Price, size and shipping details can be found on the t-shirt page in the newly added “Buy” section of the site.

I’ll be packing and shipping t-shirt orders by hand (with payment through PayPal), so a two-week delivery time is anticipated, depending on your global location. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it all together in time for holiday shipments. But rest assured, I’ll be getting orders out the door as quickly as possible. It’ll be an interesting experiment.

A Blurry Photo of Will Ferrell

Mom asks, Hey, there’s a Swedish Christmas festival happening downtown on Saturday, would you and Kerry like to go? Well, yeah! That alone could be fun — pancakes, meatballs, Tomtes, crisp bread, Will Ferrell, Glögg — whoa whoa, wait. Will Ferrell? File this one under: Places You’d Least Likely Meet Movie Stars Named Will.

Will FerrellThe star of Saturday Night Live and countless comedic film gems was there to crown the “Queen of Light”, St. Lucia. Of course. Apparently, Will’s Swedish wife has Boston roots as well. But still…
My favorite part of his little monologue, to a crowd of only a few hundred: Thank you. It’s great to be here at the Swiss festival. I love Switzerland.

So, I took his picture with my phone, and he signed our Elf DVD (we did find out the day before that he’d be there, albeit it was so under-publicized that we didn’t believe it) and that was that.


Changes to the design of SimpleBits have always come in small, incremental tweaks. I’ve had to restrain myself from making a complete departure from the basic theme. This is partly due to time, and partly due to always coming back to the same concept. Is it perfect? No way. But for now (and for a long while) it has worked, leaving time for other things.

This little update is very tiny. I’ve removed the icons from the navigation. The site as a whole was in danger of being consumed by icons. Icons everywhere. So I thought I’d strip down the design, and let it flow around the work, rather than force the work into the design.

screen shotGone are the (rather pointless) color theme switcher buttons, replaced by a new default frosty blue. Instead of changing header colors, you can now toggle between a centered, fixed-width layout and a widescreen, fluid-width version. This was a bit tricky, in order to keep design elements in the header and sidebar consistent. I’ve used the “Sliding Faux Columns” approach (1, 2, 3) in achieving a flexible, yet full-length sidebar.

For me, it’s difficult to stop tweaking. To know when to stop and when something is done. And at times, it’s fun to remove things, distilling a theme or idea a bit more than originally planned. Here’s to the constant ebb and flow of web design.

I Have Joined a Dodgeball League

I type this as the lactic acid is starting to set in. I have joined a dodgeball league, sponsored by a local YMCA here on the North Shore of Boston. Dodgeball? Yes, that game. I write this post to encourage others that may have similar leagues starting in their areas. It is extremely fun.

Having no idea what to expect, naturally the greatest worry is the equipment. Will it sting? But an official dodgeball is much like a small, Nerf (the leader in foam ball construction) ball that’s been dipped in thin, rubbery plastic. This means it can be thrown with incredible velocity, yet cannot inflict any pain. The lightness of the ball lends itself to be thrown in corkscrew or curve paths toward the opponent, making it difficult to either catch it, or duck out of the way. Strategies quickly emerge from elementary school memories buried deep. As one teammate said, it’s a mental game. Heh.

Surprisingly, this dodgeball league is nicely organized, with strict rules and fast game times. It’s non-stop running around, throwing and jumping. Great excercise — and something I need after sitting in front of a computer screen all day. What do you do to blow off steam?


No sooner was the Thanksgiving turkey consumed than Kerry and I were packing to head up to freezing Montréal for the weekend. The cold weather and short trip made for not seeing all of the city that we probably should have, but we were there for one reason and one reason only: to see the Pixies play live.

The PixiesSecond on a list of “I didn’t think I’d get a chance to see that” (first being the Red Sox miracle of October 2004). Did that really happen? Did the Pixies reunite — and more importantly — did they sound great? Aside from the horrible acoustics of the venue (a hockey arena), the show was surreal — and only would be for a fan that never thought they’d be able to witness it. Heck, Joey Santiago was possibly the largest influence on me, in my old music playing days.

A highlight was seeing bassist Kim Deal play the entire set with a permanent smile. Evidence that the band enjoyed playing together again. And without saying a single word to the audience the whole way though, all four members took a good five minutes at the end to pace the front of the stage, waving and smiling to the crowd that was going berzerk.

Was it worth the six-hour drive? You bet. And I hope to catch another show here in Boston, where I’m told there’ll be many.


A few months ago, I wrote about my search for the perfect FTP client — and how I didn’t think it existed yet on OS X. I still don’t. But I’ve recently purchased Transmit from the fine folks at Panic Software and have been giving it a spin.

Transmit iconIt’s fast, responsive and has some nice configurable toolbar options (shortcuts, previewing files, etc.). I still think that the one feature it’s missing (and I’ve emailed a feature request to the company) is a “column view” for navigating server directories, much like that found in the OS X Finder. It’s become such a natural way to view hierarchy for me, and with that feature, Panic would be the best FTP client in the history of FTP clients. For now, it seems to be the best FTP client in the history of FTP clients currently available for OS X.

My main complaint with RBrowser, which I had been using exclusively for a long time, was it’s sluggishness — and inability to transfer large, deep directories without freezing. Transmit wins on the performance meter — hands down.

Also, the icon. It’s one of the better OS X icons I’ve seen. Why? It’s fat and chunky (easy to click) and looks cool when it’s bouncing up and down (if you like that sort of thing happening in your Dock).

Commenting Restored

Commenting is now restored. I ended up (reluctantly) upgrading to MT3.11, solely for the ability to bulk delete any future spam attacks with ease. But clicking around a bit, I’m noticing some other interesting features, and am now happy to be on the latest version.

A tip on upgrading. If you have a large site with a lot of entries and comments — I’d suggest making sure you’re using a SQL database. I was previously using Berkeley DB, and upgrading those large databases failed every time (timeouts). There are scripts (possibly already there) to transfer from Berkeley DB to SQL. Do this first. The rest of the upgrade process went very smooth, and MT in general looks to be running faster.

I’ll be continuing to add more spam-blocking features to the site now that I’m upgraded. Thanks to all those that have written in with offers to help. Very kind of you.

Mystery Photo Contest Thing

What’s in the photo, below? Every few days, I’ll be gradually increasing the resolution, making it a little easier to try and figure out just what it is.

The first person to correctly guess won’t win truckloads of cash, a new car, a new dining room set or a pair of jet skis. But they will win the following:

I’m a bit limited as to what I can give away around here, but this is all just for fun anyway. And here is the mystery photo…

what is it?

Good luck.

Update: Believe it or not, this photo was guessed in the first comment. Either tirin is a genius, or I clearly didn’t make this hard enough. Regardless, this concludes this (short) contest.