Side-stepping IE is the latest article from Dave Shea and quite nicely summarises ways around some of the more common IE bugbears such as font-sizes, min- and max-width issues and using a .htc file to enable :hover on any element (which of course Mozilla and Firefox support out of the box).

These have all been kicking around for a few months now, but it’s always nice to see them drawn together. Slowly but surely my job is taking back from Java development to web dev for the relaunch of our corporate website, bringing me, for the first time, into contact with a contracted design team (previously I’ve been part of the hired third-party company, and worked with the hiring company’s in-house designers). It’s led to a bit of trouble because, as Lead Web Developer for my firm, I’ve generally got a very good idea of what’s good for our company website (I’ll expand on this in another post).

In other web development news, I’d completely forgotten all about Widgetopia – part of eleganthack.com and an excellent weblog detailing and assessing different styles of site navigation and user interface widgets. A worthy subscription for all web designers.

Textpattern by Dean Allen is finally out, and very nice it looks too. A quick play reveals an easy to use (although not entirely gripe-free application). But nevertheless pretty damn good for a 1.1 version.

Recently of course, Textile 2.0 (also by Dean Allen) hit the shops, or more rather MT-Textile 2.0 (a collaboration between the aforementioned DA and Brad Choate) did.

And boy did they ring in the changes.

MT-Textile 2.0 commands

All that stuff! Holy cow, Textile should just be about simplifying the writing of basic HTML, not inventing a syntax to replace it. Additions like the google and amazon linking mechanisms are nice, simple touches that add a whole lot of useful blogger-centric functionality, but the table-stuff? Just use <table>! (the same holds true for wiki syntax btw – table source code is always hard to read, whether it’s using tags or pipe characters, but someone who understands the table tags is far more likely to be able to understand your intent when they see the tags than the pipes). And all the language stuff, and ID/class stuff? It’d probably be quicker to type the full tags. Braces should never be used in something that’s aiming at ease of use.

The new in-text footnote stuff is also nice, except that the actual footnote list is horrible: fn1. ? eek. It’s just too long.

These things bug me. I really love Textile and write almost the entirety of each of my blog posts using it (and that’s a few hundred now), but Textile is mooted as a “humane web text generator” and if humane is something that is supposed to be

marked or motivated by concern with the alleviation of suffering

then features in this new version do not follow that maxim. As the commands get longer and longer, you wonder if you may just as well have learned HTML in the first place…

Blimey, talk about early adoption – I was reading this article about mod_python on ONLamp when I suddenly noticed that they have an Atom feed as well as an RSS feed! Not only that, but the article supports trackback!

This was one of my (very) few visits to ONLamp, so apologies if this is news old enough to eat your chips off, but we’re really seeing a lot of early Atom adoption – I genuinely thought it would take much longer than this, and I suppose that once Disney start publishing Atom feeds (or were those only for internal consumption? I forget and can’t find the link I want – this piece on Ross Mayfield’s Weblog will have to do. What a dashing chap) a few of the other big players (like the BBC) might notice.

Over the Christmas period I got two mobile devices, a Nokia 6600 and a Sony Clié NR70V/E (I was also hoping to get a PocketPC 1940, but seeing as I’d just got a new job, cutting my daily commute down from four hours a day to just thirty minutes, it seemed a bit of a waste). I’ve been using them both on a daily basis now for a reasonable amount of time and so here’s what I think:

Basically I’ve been really disappointed with the 6600, it promises so much, and delivers so little. Perhaps it’s just because my expectations of it were so high to begin with, but I feel quite disappointed, especially with all the great reviews it’s had all over the Interweb. The physical design is mostly good – big, bight screen, usefol side keys, reassignable soft keys, decent enough joystick control, but the keypad itself is very poor. I’ve got very small hands (yes, that’s enough giggling at the back thank you) and fingers, but because of the design of the keys, I find it hard to always hit the key I want when writing an SMS, (and then the “delete” key is in a completely different place from almost EVERY OTHER NOKIA PHONE, completly destroying my muscle memory to quickly delete the character I’ve just typed, and instead saves my mail out to Drafts and puts me back at the Messaging menu screen – comparatively, this is just a minor niggle). If you lay the phone on its back and view it from the side, you can see that each key is shaped a bit like a wedge, with the bottom of each key higher than the top. What this means of course is that because of the key above, only the lower half of each key is actually usable – try and press the top half, or aim centrally and you’ll also hit the key above it. Very infuriating, especially when coupled with the change to the delete key mentioned above.

I’ll readily confess that this is the first Series 60 phone I’ve owned, and most of the apps seem fairly usable, and there’s a great range of easy-to-use software bundled for first-time owners (although the games are poor), and when I first got it, I couldn’t see myself ever using my Palm for things like calenders, reminders etc. because the 6600 tools seemed so much nicer; but MY GOD IT’S SLOW! I’d been hoping to delegate all PDA-like functions to the 6600 and basically use the Palm as a crappy camera and quick note-taker, but as it turns out, the 6600 has a better camera anyway. And thank God for that because there’s no way whatsoever that you could use the 6600 for things like calendering, appointments, decent address book storage etc. unless you’ve got a LOT of patience, which, for the guy (or girl) on the go, isn’t an option. Almost every keypress on the 6600 takes between one and two full seconds to bring up the selected application. From the press of the button, it takes a full three seconds just to bring up my contacts list, and there are only about thirty names in it. From a user perspective this is blatantly unacceptable, and if I didn’t know better, would suggest that it’s beta software standard. Oh, did I mention how long it takes to turn on? From off to being able to do anything is around thirty seconds, and that’s possibly being slightly generous.

I like my 6600, it’s got some great features, and the screen quality really is great, especially for when you’re browsing the Interweb. It’s nowhere near as chunky as people seem to think it is and is all-round an OK phone. But that’s all. If I could get my list of contacts up in 1.5 seconds or thereabouts I’d be much, much happier. If I didn’t seem to spend most of my time on it waiting to see if I’ve actually pressed a button rather than actually using it, I’d recommend to anyone and everyone, but I do and so I can’t.

The Palm, on the other hand, is an absolute revelation. My model is about two years old, and was given to my by a relative who wasn’t really using it. I’d never used a Palm before (especially not a clié), although I had used several high-end PocketPCs and been fairly impressed. The consensus of most people I knew (and know), is that Palms suck – the poor man’s PocketPC if you will. If I had an equivalent PocketPC I’d be able to judge that aspect better, but as I can’t, for the time being I’m just going to say that my Clié rocks.

I’m of no doubt whatsoever that a lot of my good impression of the Clié comes from using both it and the 6600 daily – the Clié is mega responsive, you hit a button, something happens straight away. You can turn it on and off with impunity, as it doesn’t seem to have any concept of having to “boot-up”, the instant you turn it on, it’s in the exact state that it was when you turned it off – genius stuff. In fact the slowest part of it is when I load Plucker, a third party application used for reading documents (a desktop app can convert just about any normal PC text document such as a web page, text file or rss/rdf/atom feed into a Plucker document) which currently has about twenty of my subscribed feeds in it – this probably takes a whole second.

As far as I can tell it’s running PalmOS4.5, which is fairly old now, but most of the apps are pretty good, with plain, understandable options, and easy-to-use functions. The only two major downsides are the quality of the camera (which is pretty poor), and the fact that it didn’t seem to come with any manuals, which limits what I can do with it quite a bit – for example I have no idea of how to get photos I’ve taken with it back onto my computer! Google was no help, and I’ve not yet tried the Palm forums, which could be of some help.

So all in all, I like my Palm more, but now can’t survive without carrying both devices around with me at all times (my clié doesn’t have bluetooth built in like the 6600, and although bluetooth memory sticks are available, they’re generally far too expensive (around £250) to even consider, especially for a piece of hardware as old as the Clié). I’m fairly sad about this, as I was really hoping that the 6600 would suffice for the day-to-day stuff, but the lack of responsiveness and dodgy keys means it’s just not good enough. What it does mean, on the other hand, is that I’m now far more likely to take a look at the newer Cliés (you just gotta love that swivelling screen) to see what they can offer, and if it’s possible to get one that acts a little like the XDA from O2 – a PDA with a phone built in. If so, I wouldn’t think twice about dropping the 6600 immediately and switching.

Oooooh, bad Blogger!

I’ve just checked what my atom feed looks like, and Blogger’s funking the titles. What’s “Until recently I which almost always sells them mo…” supposed to be then? It’s a valid feed but that doesn’t really help me (or readers) much when the titles are clearly nonsense.

It seems to be a character issue (possibly something to do with encoding? I apologise if this is the stupidest thing to say ever :)). Everything between the first and last non-alphanumeric character is skipped, leaving a title made up of two, possibly complete disparate sentences.

For example this post from Wednesday starts [Until recently I’] (at which point it cuts off) and the text immediately after the last non-alphanumeric character is [” which almost always sells them mo]. Tada, we have our mangled headline.

Discovering exactly which characters choke the Atom generaction is left as an exercise for the reader. 🙂

Sometime recently Ananova stopped providing TV listings. “Oh no”, you might think, “what a tragedy”. Yet it is. Ananova was the only online source I knew of which produced (free) TV listings in XMLTV as well as the more usual HTML format.

This piece by Matt Biddulph from the end of last year details some of the work you can do to generate listings in RDF (from where of course, you could do things like create events in your RDF calendar).

So for now it looks like the only real alternative is to use the xmltv project to pull down xmltv sources and then pass them through to your app. It’s a shame though because the Ananova feeds gave some programme description as well as just the basic time, channel and title which the xmltv app gives you.

The slides and source code for Russell Beattie‘s J2ME presentation at ETech are available for download.

The code includes Hello World, a Google searcher, RSS reader and Amazon searcher. Nice stuff and an excellent resource for people looking to get started in mobile development.

Also nice to see a slide with “Don’t trust the emulator!” on it. 🙂