A resolution for all

Prompted by a discussion (hopefully my last comment will appear soon enough) I had on another website regarding web design (specifically, one I did not care for), I began to think about screen resolution. I remember months ago when some bloggers started talking about dropping support for smaller screen sizes because they just weren’t showing up in the logs enough. And while I can appreciate here in the mid-aughts that 640 pixels is a ridiculously small width for anything short of specialized usage (e.g. PDAs, cell phones, or visually impaired users), it seemed strange to me that 800 pixel-wide designs were also under threat of dismissal simply because 1024×768 had become the most dominant screen size.

I’m sitting here at my desk at work with my laptop screen set at 1400×1050 and my secondary one running 1680×1050, so what’s my problem? Well, my problem is that I’m also running the Google Desktop Sidebar, Outlook, Winamp, a couple Active Directory utilities, and multiple explorer windows. In other words, I don’t run my browsers full screen – I actually multitask. Sure, I could easily just bump the size of my windows a little bit as I have in the past, but why would I want to? I can’t think of many sites that actually benefit from going all the way up to a width 1024px. When I look at the new designs at the New York Times and CNN, I can’t help but notice that there’s a lot of crap that pushes them out that wide. Keeping my browser 50-75 pixels narrower loses almost no content. So why not just shrink that silly video player or drop one of the excessive “other news”-type columns to get the page back down to a more practical 800-900 pixels wide?

Of course the response would probably be, because they don’t see a need anymore than I see a need to increase my width. But I will once again submit that the content doesn’t need the extra width and even tends to be hurt by it. Those pages tear my eyes in different directions and make it difficult to focus on what’s important. Granted, a newspaper is not nearly as focused as a blog is and doesn’t have the luxury of using the narrow one column design Michael at Binary Bonsai finally settled on (for now). But there is a balance that can be struck – one in which 3 or 4 well-sized columns are used to place content appropriately, and bells and whistles are axed if they don’t truly add to site.

It’s not like I have any definitive answers – heck, I didn’t even do this design – but that doesn’t mean I can’t question these decisions. Afterall, I am the user. Personally I think the fluid-to-a-point method works best (once IE7 is out with real support), but that obviously won’t fit every situation and will be impractical for others. But, in the meantime, please try to remember that some of us with high resolution monitors don’t feel like reading paragraphs stretched across 1200 pixels – my eyes are bad enough as it stands.

Those ironic sunglasses

Every so often on Mondays I forget to browse through the TV listings and accidentally end up watching CSI: Miami. Having caught a few episodes I can say, without any doubt, that it is the absolute worst show ever. Seriously, how the hell has this horrid piece of crap made it four seasons – especially with that pathetic excuse for an actor David Caruso at the helm. The man would have difficulty scoring a lead role in a high school production yet continues to get paying gigs. Does he know how to display any emotion except squinty?

Last week – or maybe the week before, I can’t keep track – I caught this one scene in which the human sunglare was told that they couldn’t get a hold of someone or something and that person might be in some sort of danger – you can tell it really had me captivated. But the point is he paused for affect, put his sunglasses on, and dramatically walked into the elevator. And all of it was done without an ounce of irony. This was actually his attempt at creating tension – a feeble display of acting at best, MTV poserdom at worst.

Tonight this horror of horrors was on while Lisa was doing some work. I walked into the room and asked if he had donned his “special” sunglasses with which to fight crime. Much to my chagrin – or possibly David’s – he then proceeded to put them back on as if they would help him… I dunno… see his lines better or something. Terrible. And the big finale was like the most poorly edited music video I’ve ever seen. It made that “Fishheads” one look like modern art. And sadly they were destroying a song by The Sounds in the process.

We thankfully had an episode of House to watch to purge as much of the experience as possible. To be honest, a 12 hour marathon of Joey and The Tyra Banks Show would have been a welcome followup to wash out that bad taste.

So much to say

Things I want to write about when I get home tonight:

  • Seeing She Wants Revenge at Irving Plaza with Jeff and Sara
  • Seeing Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab for Cutie at the Tweeter Center with Jeff, Sara, Chris, and Mark
  • I really should mention how great the Billy Joel Concert a few weeks ago – is that enough?
  • Progress on the house and the lovely flowers its previous owner planted for us – photographic evidence!
  • The length of my hair – more photographic evidence!
  • Booking our honeymoon to Hawaii – well, that’s really all there is to say so far
  • My ever-shrinking storage space thanks to DIME
  • IE7 – it’s actually pretty cool so far
  • Fun and impromptu photo sessions at home and how they’ve inspired me

If I actually get to write about any of that I’ll be amazed. So just in case, I leave you with this enjoyable meme:

Go to Wikipedia and look up your birthday (excluding the year). List three neat facts, two births, and one death in your journal, including the year.

Three neat facts:
5509 BC – The world was created, according to the Byzantine Empire. (I almost left off that last bit as this one was just WAY cool!)
1752 – The Liberty Bell arrives in Philadelphia.
1875 – A murder conviction effectively forces the violent Irish anti-owner coal miners, the “Molly Maguires”, to disband.

Two Births:
1854 – Engelbert Humperdinck, German composer (d. 1921)
1974 – Jhonen Vasquez, comic book artist

One Death:
1999 – W. Richard Stevens, Author of Unix Network Programming and several books and IETF RFC documents (b. 1951) – I was actually sad to find this out. I had no idea he died in ’99 at such a young age. Every CS major would at least recognize his books even if they don’t own them.

It’s so interesting to see how the birthday information changes, because I pretty much only ever remember recognizing Lily Tomlin (and perhaps Conway Twitty) as sharing mine when I would look it up as a kid. Now I recognize names like Rocky Marciano and even the GREAT Billy Blanks being in the midst. Plus there are the newer additions to fame like Fallout Boy’s guitarist (born on the day I turned 8!) and a number of athletes.

Oh yeah, and one terrorist.

Credit, where credit is due

A few weeks ago I managed to pick up some Pearl Jam tickets directly from TicketBastard, since I missed out on the fan club pre-sale for the second show. The experience isn’t alltogether painful as their servers have the common courtesy to not lose cookies or randomly crash in the middle of large rushes for tickets. Instead, you just have to wait the actual 5-10 minutes that the progress bar displays for your order to pop up. Unfortunately, my order popped up with a copy of their new CD (which I fully intend to pre-order directly from them) in the cart at the ridiculous price of $16.99. Despite their claims that I would be able to remove the CD, I was stuck with it if I wanted the tickets.

Much to my surprise, this weekend I received an e-mail from their customer service describing the bug that had prevented customers from removing the CD from the bin and included instructions for cancelling that portion of the order. “Wow,” I thought, “Those jerks actually did something right – they actually fixed their mistake.” So it occurred to me that I should write a post describing what a wonderful thing TicketBastard had done in order to right this wrong. Songs should be sung about them and tales told long into the night as we feast over wild boar and flowing stouts. Perhaps a statue in their honor shall be erected.

Then I began to wonder why I should praise a company that charges me an extra $8-$10 just for the right to buy a ticket for fixing their mistake. Do they really deserve any publicity for simply not being completely devoid of ethics?

No, no they don’t. So I guess I won’t write about this afterall…

Dual boot future

Talk about a one-blog-mind – the first three posts from my regular feeds today were all the same. This has definitely peaked my curiosity. It is now a very real possibility that I would consider buying a Mac somewhere down the line. I’ve said plenty of times that I was interested in OS X, but would never fork over all the money just for an extra machine that couldn’t run all of my Windows software. Now the transition might actually make sense.

UPDATE: There are, of course, more talking on the subject – Deiter talks about the possible negative ramifications. But since I moved him over to the photo section, it takes me longer to catch up 🙂 .

What the hell was that?

Alrighty, listen up, I’m not about to freak out because it‘s snowing snowed in April. I’ve seen weird and wacky weather enough the past few years to get over that. But the manner in which the precipitation transpired this morning was just WAY over the top.

When I first got up, I rushed to take the garbage down to the street. I didn’t even need a jacket. It was beautiful and sunny out. Yeehaw! As I hopped into the shower I noticed it was getting a little grey outside – darn, looks like we’ll get that rain afterall. By the time I got out of the shower (TADA!) it was snowing. That sucks, but not too much. So I (not so) quickly gather everything for work and get ready to leave. WHERE THE HELL DID THE HAMSTER-SIZED SNOWFLAKES COME FROM?!?! Seriously, my car was coated with a not-so thin layer in about 2 minutes flat. Suddenly we’re checking the weather channel to figure out if it’s even safe for me to leave.


Finally I decide I can’t just sit around and leave even later in hopes that the blizzard subsides. There’s probable a quarter inch on the ground, and I want to get out before the roads get bad. The drive isn’t that bad. After about 15 minutes, it’s barely snowing. Five minutes later, I don’t see any flakes. I pull into work, and my car is the only one with snow on it.

And I repeat: WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?!

Through the looking glass

For those of you who shoot with Canon SLRs, you know that “L” glass lenses are the shiznit. Seriously, they’re the kind that everybody drools over while wishing with all of your might that the price tag will just magically disappear – or at least move the decimal over to the left a little. In other words, the quality is top notch, but you might just need to take out a second mortgage to get one. Kind of like when I go into a camera shop and they let me try out a 20D (or 30D these days). Yeah, I want it, but I also want to eat.

That’s where Rentglass comes in. This company is actually renting out high quality lenses for decent money on a weekly basis. So far they only have Canon, but Nikon is around the corner. The worry of having to take care of someone else’s lens definitely makes me think twice about this, but imagine being able to head out to Hawaii for my honeymoon (still not definite, by the way) with a stunning wide-angle and a killer macro in tow for about 50 bucks a week. And I’m sure I could find some reason to spend $45 for a week with this beauty (and a friend).

It seems to be a growing business that’s trying to take it slowly and make sure their model will work. Here’s hoping that I get a chance to try it out!

(thanks to Matt Haughey)

Eagles hit the big time

Remember that webcam I mentioned last week? It got so popular so fast, they’ve already redesigned a “proper” front page, added forums, put up some ads, and hinted at a “premium” feed option in the future. Amazingly, there seems to be no grousing over the idea that these people can’t do this for free. In fact, there have been a few threads in the forums suggesting that they take Paypal donations and asking how they can contribute to make sure the feed keeps running smoothly (at this time it’s grown a tad jerky).

It’s nice to see people on the Internet realize that when a small project suddenly starts getting 2 million visitors a day with over 4500 simultaneous viewers, you can’t really keep it up for free. I guess it also helps that a number of people on the forums appear to be teachers who are excited about the prospect of showing a live hatching to their classes.

I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Infotec on this one. These guys have been on the forums asking and answering questions; tirelessly working on the feed as the demand has increased, and even assured everybody that there will continue to be a free live stream for everybody to see the eggs hatch. Way to go guys!

And here’s some quick facts I found in the forum:

* The Eggs are expected to hatch sometime in the third week of april. The incubation takes about 36 days!
* The nest is located on Hornby Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada
* The nest is sitting in a tree at the top of a 150ft cliff!
* The Camera is located next to the nest (literally) and is connected to an Infotec ‘Galaxy Encoder’ box situated nearby.
* The stream will be live well into the days when the baby eagles are old enough to leave the nest
* We don’t currently have an infrared camera, so at night time, expect it to be dark!

I just got to watch the mother swap out with the father again – and yes, I’d easily contribute 25 bucks to make sure it wouldn’t be so jerky next time.

New health insurance… not!

My boss sent out this e-mail over the weekend:

We are in the process of initiating a new improved health care plan. It is called Health Cash Plus and this is how it will work.

You go to any doctor or health care facility you want, anywhere in the world. When the bill comes, you pay it directly out of your own pocket. No muss, no fuss.

Here are some of the advantages vs. a traditional managed care health plan:

  1. No claim forms to fill out
  2. No networks
  3. No ID cards
  4. No “explanations of benefits” arriving in the mail
  5. No help lines to call
  6. No benefit books
  7. No enrollment forms
  8. No “preferred providers”
  9. No managed care
  10. No HMOs

We will keep you posted on further updates and improvements to our health plan.

I had to read it three times before realizing that it was a joke. Bill’s a fun guy, but a mass e-mail like this is not what I would expect from him. But April Fool’s Day will bring out the prankster in plenty of us.

P.S. Of course, some people will go to much greater lengths for a joke.

P.P.S. And an even better one.