Rad : October 2009 Archives

Happy Halloween. I modified the method of placing the graphics in the header found at the top of the home page .. up where it says » RADIFIED | Nuclear Grade Technolust. There I implemented a technique known as » CSS Image Replacement, of which there exist many variations, each with its own set of pro's & con's.

HalloweenThe dividing-line among web designers seems to be whether or not to use a non-semantic span tag with CSS positioning, which involves a more complicated technique .. but leaves visible TEXT in place for visitors who surf the Web with STYLES turned off (primarily those using mobile devices).

I used a simpler IR technique, by changing the images you see displayed there .. from foreground images to background images.

This allowed me to replace the foreground images (contained in those heading elements) with TEXT .. which I then indented (way to your left), so it can't be seen. By moving the TEXT out of the way, this technique reveals the graphics (.. which look prettier than standard heading-text).

The advantage however, is » devices that don't render styles (such as screen readers and mobile devices) will now see a TEXT heading and tag-line displayed there, where before there existed only images. Search engines also gives more weight to TEXT than images.

Most Rad visitors will never notice the difference .. seeing most who frequent the site (fellow technolusters) browse with both images and CSS turned ON. But I'm gradually filling my webmaster toolkit with increasingly sophisticated techniques. (Learning by doing.)

After all the pages are styled however, and the markup is coded semantically, there's still no substitute for insightful content .. that is well written (.. and hopefully seasoned with a dash of personality).

This has always been the most difficult challenge .. because a stylish suit does not a charming pig make. And the ugliest person can say the profoundest things, and possess scintillating ideas. So it would seem that content trumps style .. no matter the venue (.. except maybe for those who focus on style).

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Changed the underlying markup that controls the links in the blue-green sidebars on the home-page. They were previously coded as » paragraphs. I changed them to » list-items .. cuz that's what they are » a list of items (links) grouped according to category. Certainly not paragraphs .. not even sentences.

Website InspectionIf I did this correctly, you shouldn't notice any difference. Cuz I applied the same styling to the list items .. tho this was trickier than it might sound. I nearly freaked when a single misplaced comma trashed my whole layout. Yikes!

This change represents a semantic improvement. Semantics (i.e. » 'meaning') is one of the buzz-words kicked around when thinkers discuss the Web's future.

Most surprising was that it took me so long to realize I had coded the home-page with semantically incorrect markup. It suddenly hit me (last night), when out of the blue (actually » blue-green), I thought » "Those links aren't paragraphs; they're a LIST."

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Enrolled in Amazon's Affiliate program, something I probably shoulda done years ago. They claim it takes ~3 days to process an application, but I received my acceptance letter today. (Applied late last night.)

Crime and Punishment

Being a n00b, I don't know much about their program yet, except that they pay a percentage whenever a visitor clicks a link on my site and makes a corresponding purchase. (How big of a percentage I'm not sure.)

I've long included links to books at the Amazon site [ in pages such as this one » Best Books for Learning the Basics of Web Site Design (XHTML & CSS), and this one » Andy Budd's Book: CSS Mastery ] without ever taking advantage of their program.

If I start making considerable cash, I'll be bummed that I didn't enroll sooner. And if I don't (earn cash), I'll be bummed too, for wasting my time with this program. So either way .. which might be why I hesitated so long.

What I like best about the Amazon program is that it allows me to monetize the site without including visible ads (.. unlike Google's AdSense program). All I need to do is add the following code to the end of each Amazon link » ?ie=UTF8&tag=radifiedcom-20. So it's virtually invisible to visitors. If I didn't tell you, you might never know.

I also like that it doesn't cost visitors anything extra when purchasing a book via a link from this site.

After establishing an 'Associate' account (and logging in to the Amazon site), a toolbar magically appears at the top of the browser window whenever I visit Amazon.com.

The Associate toolbar allows me to create targeted links to the particular book/page I'm at/on .. with a single click. Couldn't be easier. I simply paste the auto-generated code into my web page.

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"Hey Rad Man!" began an email I received last week. "I'll pay $100 for a link on your Downloads page." Of course, there's no way of knowing if such offers are legit .. until the cash arrives.

 BenjaminI've researched Search Engine Optimization (SEO) enough to know I don't much care for it.

Programming I enjoy, but SEO contains a seemingly endless amount of info to digest, some of which conflicts from site to site.

And the suggested techniques are often time-consuming, with dubious results that demand the patience of a saint before you start to see results. Rather focus my energies on generating original content.

Moreover, some of the techniques used to 'optimize' web pages (for higher search engine rankings) seem manipulative, if not downright dishonest. Many of the SEO sites I've visited have a 'slimy' feel to them » detailing how to trick search engines into ranking your pages higher.

I learned that links from 'ranked' pages will (in turn) yield greater 'importance' to the pages that those links aim at (point to). This is (I assume) what this person had in mind when she contacted me.

The email seemed both professional and specific. (Not slimy.) The girl was clear about what she wanted. And best of all, her proposal could be implemented minutes. (Simple.)

The problem was .. that the page they wanted a link on was created back when I knew squat about web standards (XHTML & CSS). The underlying mark-up (code) was a rat's nest of deprecated tags and coding no-no's.

Downright embarrassing .. from a webmaster's point-of-view. Miracle the page would render at all (.. even in 'quirks' mode).

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Frontline launches its new season tonight .. with a feature titled » Obama's War. We're taken to Afghanistan, where we hear a commander begin the segment by saying, "We are experts in the application of violence." Catchy. Got my attention.

Obama's War Was surprised to hear the f-word uttered so many times. Soldiers use the f-word a lot. Even more than sailors do. But then, sailors don't normally get shot at .. which can't be a very pleasant experience.

Glad to know they didn't edit-out the real-life dialogue. That's why I like Frontline .. feel like they give me the straight poop. (Much as possible.)

Great contrast showing the difference between the suit-n-tie crowd discussing policy in an air-conditioned banquet-room in Washington .. with soldiers dodging bullets in Afghanistan's withering heat (.. one of whom got shot thru the neck and died).

If nothing else, this program illustrates the gulf that exists between the Washington policy-makers and the bullet-dodging soldier.

I'm convinced that anybody who is involved in making war policy should be required spend a week (just a week) with the soldiers who are charged with executing policy.

Nothing like a little first-hand experience to inject a dose of reality into the plan. Cuz it's much easier to make policy, while sitting in an air-conditioned room (sipping a dry martini) .. than it is to execute policy .. with bullets whizzing by your head.

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Web typography. It would seem to be a fairly simple topic, no? While I was reviewing some related concepts recently, the following question popped into my head » What exactly is an em?

EM | Usage in Web Typography I've been using em's a long time, and knew they were based somehow on the letter 'M.' Wasn't sure however, if they were based on the size of the capital [M] or lower-case letter [m].

Also felt confident they were based on the horizontal measurement, but not certain. (In both cases, I was wrong.)

Trying to answer this simple question led to a surprising amount of confusion. Many sources on the web discuss ems, and detail their usage, without ever defining what exactly an em is.

Many pages are more complicated than need be. (It's not rocket science.) Finally have a handle on the topic, but my dang eyeballs are burning .. from reading so much.

First, let me answer the question I posed at the top, and therefore avoid the criticism I levied at many other sites.

An em is (drum-roll, please) » a unit of measure (.. defined by a certain number of pixels). So like inches & meters & light-years, which are also units of measure, the em is a » unit of LENGTH.

The thing that makes the em tricky is that » unlike inches or meters, or other fixed (or 'absolute') lengths, the em is a relative unit.

"Relative to what, Rad?" you might be asking. Relative to the font-sizing applied to (in pixels) its » parent element.

What this means is » the SAME font-size declaration (specified with ems) can yield DIFFERENT results (in pixels) .. when/if the parent element for each declaration specifies a different sized font. Hence, the confusion.

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Install a Wiki? (DokuWiki)

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Made some minor style-tweaks to the home page. The text you're reading now, for example, is slightly less-bright (easier on the eyes), while the links are a little brighter .. than they were before. (Might have to refresh your browser to load the revised style sheet.)

WikipediaVisited-links in the sidebars are now slightly less-bright (grayer) .. than un-visited links. Used to be no diff.

Been studying more CSS. Becoming very comfortable tweaking styles. Fine-tuning. Easier for me to determine what I don't like, than what I do.

Oh, the date is also slightly brighter (whiter) .. than the rest of the text, and has a "text-transform" property applied to make it » UPPERCASE .. via a span tag with 'date' class attribute.

Upgraded the Rad blog to the newest version (4.32), which was released a few days ago. Way easier, now that I have Linux shell skillz & a VPS. Five minutes instead of 2 hours.

Movable Type v5.0 will be coming out soon. Currently at » beta-3. I normally install NEW versions of whole-number upgrades, rather than upgrading previous installations. Keeps the number of blog-entries down for a given installation.

Currently have 167 entries on MT 4.x. Lots of entries tend to make the blog respond sluggishly (when rebuilding). That would be » Ye Olde Rad Blog IV. (Started with v2.63 .. in May 2003.)

Considering installing a wiki (software). Can't hurt. Might help. Would be a place (beside the forum) where folks could post & reference their own info/content. Might be a good learning experience, too.

I have no experience with wiki's .. other than searching Wikipedia. Not sure which one would be best. So many choices. Ideas? Saw this comparison. Nigel once recommended Dokuwiki (I think) as a well-coded (PHP-based) piece of software.

The Dokuwiki download is 1.7 MB. (Compare that with the Movable Type download, which is 4.6 MB.) An über comparison of all Wiki's and their features is posted » HERE. Meanwhile Wikipedia, the mother-of-all wiki's, uses MediaWiki, which is both free & Open Source.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Rad in October 2009.

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