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Put the date on your blog entries!

I don't know how many times lately I've been googling for info and found an article that describes what I need for some obscure CSS or javascript trick, or even server side programming language only to find that it's completely obsolete.

I dig through the whole thing then realize that it was obviously written in 1997 and is completely irrelevant. Put a date on your articles people! Tech is constantly in flux and your tips and tricks rot in obsolescence... I'm tired of googling articles about php 3, or javascript for Netscape navigator 4!

Math Education

Math.

Math.

Here's the thing about math: People don't like it. I, for one, hated it in school. I remember math classes thusly:

1) Teacher writes some problems on the board and shows how to solve them.

2) Teacher gives an assignment of scores of similar problems, to be due the next day.

3) Teacher takes nap on desk while students start working on the assignment silently.

IE's CSS does letter-spacing stupidly

I know most of my readers (all 2 of you) will probably stare blankly at me over this topic, (I guess this is mostly for the search engines) but IE continues to piss me off, and I need to tell SOMEONE.

Today's problem is IE7's math, and their implementation of kerning. (having wiki'd that, I see I may be talking about tracking, but who cares.)

In css, you use a parameter called letter-spacing to change kerning on things. As with all other css, you can specify the units you want to use as pixels, points, percentages, or em. (there are others.)

An em is essentially the width of a standard 'M' character in your font of choice. For IE's mathematical purposes, it's a percentage of the font size you specified elsewhere.

So if I have a font-size: 12px; for my entire document. I can make my headers: font-size: 1.5em; and they will be displayed 150% of 12px. (18px)

So.. an example.

i'm letter-spacing of 1 em

if you're using any recent browser, that should look all spready...

Now.. I rarely need massive letter spacing like that... (though it does come up.) More often than not, I get handed a nice layout from a pro graphic designer that has text in it that is crammed together, ever so slightly, but it really does change the look of certain things.

in IE.. the best you can do for 'ever so slightly' is this:

i'm letter-spacing of -0.05 em... the quick brown fox.. yadda yadda
i'm letter-spacing of -0.00 em... the quick brown fox.. yadda yadda

that's not so bad in trebuchet or whatever the hell i'm using here, but in an italic serif font, it looks pretty tight. Now, IE can take any unit ABOVE .05.. (or 5%).. which.. in negative kerning terms.. isn't too useful.. but I sleep well at night knowing that I can always choose to do something like:

vista rant #1

You no longer seem to have direct access to 'c:\Documents and Settings' it appears to be in multiple places all over the system (as symbolic links) and none of them will give you the ability to browse their files. All I ever get is 'access denied'. I hack program files in there all the freaking time.. in this case, I want to put a heavily modified copy of my mouse configuration's xml file on the new box, so it matches my laptop. That ability seems to have been taken away from me in the interest of security. Fuck security.. I was reasonably secure before..

Vista First impression. It sucks in amazing ways.

Well, I've got a Vista system under my desk now. From what I can tell from a low level low usage perspective it is fucking horrible. I set it up quite a few days ago, and was pretty impressed with the pretties and such. Then I started to actually.. um.. use it. UAC is garbage. It asks you to confirm confirmation boxes! (so, where you'd usually get an 'are you sure' box from say.. IE7.. UAC throws an additional one on top of that!) It's the stupidest thing I've ever seen.

What happens on the internet.. stays on the internet.

A 27 year old teaching student was denied her teaching certificate
because they saw her 'drunken pirate' picture on her myspace page and deemed it 'unprofessional'.

Cross Site Scripting Response

I listen regularly to security now, and there has been a lot of talk lately about cross site scripting vulnerabilities on blogs and websites.

For a more detailed writeup of what cross site scripting is than I could ever produce, check out trusty wikipedia.

Aaron's really basic overview

For a really basic overview, here it is. Basically, in html documents (such as this one) you can put client side code (javascript, generally but it can be many flavors) anywhere on the page.

You can completely mix content and code however you want.

Now, years ago, when the web was young, and pretty much a 1 to many broadcast medium. (I post content, you look at content, nothing more) this was not a problem. The only way you could make my server spit out content was to get my ftp credentials.

The problem comes when you accept content from users.. which is all the rage with the young kids ever since... 1995? ; )

So, I have a guest book on my site. If that content is not properly checked, a you could include a line of code that would kick all users that hit that web page to a porn site... or cover it in platypuses. Worse still, you could include a line of code that would have javascript send you a copy of all the user's session cookies.. which would allow you to pose as them on the website.

Not a big deal for your average blog.. but amazon.com? banking? You get the idea.

Solution: uh.. browser manufacturers?.. w3c? turn that stupid crap off!

With current html standards and practices.. there is absolutely zero need for tag attributes that execute code such as 'onclick' 'onmouseover' etc. There is also absolutely zero reason a <script> tag should ever be found mixed in with content. Most useage of both at this point is due to either backward compatibility with really old browsers, or sheer laziness.

internet's down... So I blog.

Comcast, is a pain in the ass. Every couple weeks, I wake up to no internet access. The old cable modem is blinking, and the tv's got nothing but snow.

For a while there, I got lucky. I'd call Comcast support, and I'd get a tech that would listen to me, realize that well.. the tv, and the modem are separate entities, so I MUST have a service outage that's bigger than my cable modem.

This morning, and a couple weeks ago, I get stuck with the stupid techs.

TSA Agents are People Too! (Just kidding. They actually aren't.)

(In the interest of full disclosure, it is important to point out before you read this that I HATE the TSA.)

In "Inside Job: My Life as an Airport Screener," journalist Barbara Peterson reports on her brief time working undercover as a TSA agent. She describes the hassles of working for such a difficult and maligned organization whose rules and procedures are just as confusing to the poor saps who have to enforce them as they are to you and me. She describes long hours, pissy or even violent passengers, and the kind of governmental waste we're unfortunately all accustomed to.

Ultimately, she concludes that the problems are due to poor management and inadequate funding, not due to the evil bastards working the lines at the US airport near you.

And I call bullshit.

If it ain't neutral, It ain't yours.

Net neutrality.. well.. basically.. without it, the net as you know it is borked. Pipe providers need to provide JUST a pipe and not give a crap about the traffic on it. Just like the colorado department of transportation should have no say in whether or not I can use the interstate in my car, or if I should have my own special speed limit because I'm not a corporation. ; )

Here's a pretty good sound byte sized summary video illustrating the problem.

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