Archive

Archive for the ‘Everything Else’ Category

Setting the ViewPort for iPhone/iTouch Ready Web Sites

January 13, 2009 Comments off

Scenario:

After rolling out two new web applications targeted for WindowsMobile and Blackberries, we had a request to test and support Apple iPhone/iTouch devices.  Not a big deal, or so I thought.

Unfortunately, Safari on these devices displayed properly, but every page required zooming and was almost impossible to read.  There had to be a way to get Safari to respect the set width of the page rather than scale it out.

Solution:

Michael: “are you setting the viewport?”

Thanks to Google and a bit of help from a friend (thanks Michael!), the mysterious solution was just a meta tag away.  The best place to start would be the “Safari Web Content Guide for iPhone OS”.  I had found bits of this document elsewhere, but the information about the Viewport tags are extremely helpful.

The default viewport width is 980px; however, you can hard code the width of your page.  I placed the following tag in the <head> section of my MasterPage for the mobile site.

<!– meta tag for iPhone/iTouch devices –>

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=350px” />

That worked; however, the HTML elements (buttons, selects, etc) were still far too small.  It seems that “fit to device” is more explicitly expressed with the device-width value.

<!– meta tag for iPhone/iTouch devices –>

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width” />

device-width not only fit the text to the screen, but also properly scaled the elements as well.

Excellent. ๐Ÿ™‚

I need to fully read that Safari Web Content Guide to see if there are other wonky tags for iDevice goodness. ๐Ÿ˜‰

AddALL To Find Books

January 5, 2009 Comments off

I came across the AddALL Book Search from one of the speakers at a conference last year—not sure which one; it was one of those “oh, I’ll have to check that” scribble on a notepad.

http://www.addall.com/

What’s cool about this site?  It searchs almost all of the booksellers at the same time!  Rather than checking Buy.com, Amazon.com, Half.com, and whatever else—this free service goes out, finds those listings, and returns them to you.  I hunt for books—a lot—and this has been a huge time saver.

So, let’s say I’m wanting to find David Astels’ Test Driven Development: A Practical Guide to have a spare copy at the office:

Searching AddAll

Then pick it out of the search results to see a price comparison.

I can see that the cheapest price (with shipping) is from the used marketplace at Amazon.com.  Good deal and a lot less time spent hunting through the various sites.

Price comparison

To further geek it up, you can add this as a customized search engine to FireFox or Internet Explorer.  The URL is:

http://www3.addall.com/New/submitNew.cgi?location=[YOUR COUNTRY]&state=[YOUR LOCALE]&dispCurr=[YOURCURRENCY]&type=Title&query=TEST

For me, it looks like:

http://www3.addall.com/New/submitNew.cgi?location=10000&state=KS&dispCurr=USD&type=Title&query=TEST

The codes can be found on the AddAll site, just snip up the URL. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Categories: Education, Everything Else

Fall Project Wrapup – Home Makeover Edition

December 23, 2008 1 comment

Since moving into my new place in July, I’ve had a lot to do on the homefront.  It’s kept me extremely busy and thankful for the family truck (I can hardly carry groceries in my car, let alone tons of dirt and rock).

Gardens and drainage

Unfortunately, the gardens were not well tended to and had washed away over the years—leaving the draining towards the house rather than away.  After countless truckloads of dirt to fill in, gravel to top out, and natural rock for edging, the finished product looks good.

Front of Home   Closeup on Rocks

The backyard has had similar attention; however, is lacking the natural rock.  I’ll get to that this spring; I was waiting on the new fence to be installed… which it was last week!  The best part is that the vines and groundcover is gone and no longer needs tending—the rock looks clean and will be a LOT easier to maintain.

New privacy fence

The old fence was starting to crumble (a bit old) and was a simple, short picket fence.  I prefer privacy fences—especially since I’m looking to put a swimming pool in within the next couple of years.

The old fence had to be removed…

Old fence...

To make way for the shiny new fence…

New fenceNew fence 

The new fence looks good, the gates are a GREAT bonus, and removing the 6’ partition by the patio really opens up the back yard.

New courtyard walls

When I bought the home, the home inspector pointed out that the courtyard walls were collapsing.  Not just by a bit—but by nearly 8–12” on either side.  The the inspector and real estate agent assured me it’d be a couple hundred to jack up and fix.  A few months later—not a single mason would touch the wall to “jack it up” and guarantee it wouldn’t fall back down within a couple of months because the footings were broken out.

So, new walls!

Courtyard WallsCourtyard Walls

Updated fireplace

The home had a gas starter, but the fireplace hadn’t been used in years.  After debating gas logs vs. wood burning, I stumbled across FireCrystals at a local showroom.  Less expensive than a gas log, zero residue (my LCD TV is next to the fireplace), and a very customized, unique look sounded like just the ticket.  With this, I also replaced the old, brass fireplace doors with something a bit more modern (which matches the black glass TV stand).

After removing the old doors and cleaning it out, it was time to lay in the base crystals and UBurner…

Base and UBurner

Layers of clear, then emerald and bronze, then a reflective jade on the top gives us the finished product…

Finished fireplace with crystals!

Here’s a few of the other smaller projects:

  • Installed a slider shade for the skylight (keep heat out, heat in depending on the season).
  • Installed a new hood vent and duct outside.
  • Replaced all blinds in the home with new mini blinds; replaced window coverings with vallances.
  • Cleaned out and refinished daylight window downstairs.
  • Added ceiling fans in the living room and kitchen; replaced dining room chandelier with newer model.
  • and dozens of other “oh, we should do this…” projects. ๐Ÿ™‚

A busy, busy year indeed!

Categories: Everything Else

Technology Changing Christmas Traditions?

December 23, 2008 Comments off

A bit of an observation this holiday season…

With Christmas only a few days away, I’ve been preppin’ for the Christmas Eve festivities at my home.

  • Christmas Tree
  • Stockings on the Mantle
  • Unhealthy Holiday Foods
  • Christmas Cards
  • Gifts Wrapped in Paper and Ribbon

Christmas Cards:

Growing up, collecting and sending Christmas cards was a tradition.  I remember my parents sending out a hundred or so cards and then taking great pride in setting the received cards in bookcases, on the mantle, and in other nooks and crannies around the house.  Looking back, it seems like (perhaps unintentionally) an odd act of quantifying friendships—the more cards, the more friends you could show you had.  My parents have toned it down since then; I think they sent out about twenty cards this year with holiday newsletters included.

I also sent out a few cards this year, but it felt awkward.  99% of the potential card recepients I either email on a regular basis, twit back and forth with, instant message, or voice chat via Skype or in EQ2.  Maybe I’m too much of a techie, but it seems silly to fight the hordes at Hallmark when I can simply pop open a window and wish someone a happy holidays and catch up on the events of their day.  Most likely they already have photos of their kids/family/etc on the internet and blog posts detailing big adventures of the year.

Gifts Wrapped in Paper and Ribbon:

Around the office and between my friends and I, we ended up exchanging more gift certificates, Amazon.com credits, and the such rather than tangible gifts.  Even a few years ago, gift certificates were considered the “cold hearted” way of gift giving—now it’s pretty common.  As thoughtful as a gift may be, no one likes returning gifts and gift certificates allows a lot more flexibility.

Both of these, of course, could have roots back with the slowing economy and whatever other hardships people could be facing (holiday cards are expensive); however, it seems more of a social change rather than economic.

 

Categories: Everything Else

Refining the MSDN Search

December 4, 2008 Comments off

Earlier this year, I participated in a dig into the new features of the MSDN/TechNet “enhanced” search engine.  You can read my original review here or check out Chris’ summary of our reviews here.

I had time this morning to sit down and check out the renovations to the site, based on our (and the community’s) feedback, and am very impressed. 

1. Originally, I had a bit of issue that I couldn’t pre-refine my topics from the original search page; I still can’t.  That’s a downer.  However, the new “Related To” links are fantastic and add a nice layer of filtering to the results.  Previously, you clicked a refinement and had to have blind faith on which articles would get filtered—now you can actually filter “like” articles, which I like.

2. The site seems to work MUCH better in FireFox—autocomplete and all.  The browser-integrated search even works well in FireFox.  Awesome.

3. The original test of the MSDN search had quite a bit of traffic running back and forth and a heafty payload; however, it looks like they’ve cut both the number of requests and size down (30 requests to 6 and 187k to 25k payload). 

Request Count:  6
Bytes Sent:  5,547
Bytes Received: 25,106

ACTUAL PERFORMANCE
————–
Requests started at: 10:53:36:7301
Responses completed at: 10:53:38:9341
Total Sequence time: 00:00:02.2040000
DNS Lookup time: 125ms
TCP/IP Connect time: 234ms

RESPONSE BYTES (by Content-Type)
————–
image/gif: 1,135
 ~headers: 2,653
text/html: 21,318

There’s still a bit of traffic for the auto complete boxes and refinements seem to be total refreshes rather than on-the-fly filters, but it works quite nicely.  Results also come back pretty darn quick—almost Google quick!  I’ll, personally, live with a bit of the speed to keep the RSS resultset feeds. ๐Ÿ™‚

4. They updated the TITLE tags on the results to list the search query FIRST.  That is stellar and greatly appreciated.

Updated MSDN Search Puts Query First!

5. I originally had an issue with how the search results parsed language and version of documentation.  It looks like they’ve gotten around that by removing the language refinements all together and focus on “.NET Framework {ver} Library”.  This also solves the issue of wondering what version the documentation is pointing to and allows additional refinement. Cool.

Versioning of Documentation Now Very Visible

The updates are definate winners—increases in performance and usability.  Thanks to Chris and his team for their continued work!

Not dead… yet.

September 5, 2008 3 comments

Had a couple emails asking if I died, so rather than waiting and providing a fun response from the grave, I figured that I’d post. ๐Ÿ™‚

Work has been non-existant; I’ve mostly been grinding through learning NDepend and playing with the latest MVC Preview 5 bits.  Good times, but nothing fun to report there.

Everything else and my soul has been wrapped up in working on the house and the yard.  Gustav has saved me a bit—the rains have prevented too much tedious yard work, but plenty to do inside.  I need to keep my parents at bay though—every time they visit, I end up repairing holes in the wall when they leave. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Hopefully more excitement in coming weeks.

Tags:
Categories: Everything Else, Workplace

MSDN in Thai

August 25, 2008 Comments off

The MSDN Subscriber site is a bit hokey this morning.  Even though en-us shows up as the language in the URL, nothing looks quite English.

Google Translate can’t seem to pick out the words, but says it’s Thai.

MSDN in Thai

I think it’s just Monday—no matter what language you speak.

Tags: , ,

Retheming and Branding The Blog…

August 21, 2008 Comments off

Need a change?
My major (personal) project this fall is to rebrand the blog.  While I’m still sleepy and still ramble (or geek out), the tiredstudent persona isn’t really fitting since I’m no longer in school.  Not bad though—holding an alias for, well, 12–13 years.  When/if I go back for my doctorates, I’ll simply be the eye-twitching geek.

Which, brings about a problem-how does one rebrand a blog without totally breaking all links, ties, and such?

I’d like to:

  • Break away and start hosting the blog on my own or find a flexible host away from WordPress, the confines are driving me insane,
  • Retheme the site (the pantone cards looked cool to begin with, but I’ve found simply require explaination),
  • “Merge” having my CV site and the blog—IMHO, the blog (for better or for worse) speaks more than my CV for experiences, ideas, and opinions.  I might as well save people from hunting both down. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Any experiences out there?  I’d love to hear how it went and if the ends justify the means.

GoodReads and BookMooch

August 17, 2008 Comments off

GoodReads

For the past couple of years, I’ve had a link in my menu bar to current books I’m reading, my Amazon.com ListMania reading list, and a few other resources.  That’s somewhat—limited—in scope.  Like any good social networker, I joined GoodReads at the invitation of a friend over the weekend.  GoodReads is, at lack of better words, a social reading site—put up what you’ve read and rate it, add what you want to read, and what you’re currently reading.  Pretty cool system so far.  I’ve found a few books I want to check out already.

The Reading Lists link on the right takes you right to a graphical representation of my “library”.  Cool stuff.  So, now I can just update this.

BookMooch

BookMooch is what to do with your books AFTER you’ve finished with them.  I have dozens of books (well, had) that had little to no value on Amazon.com and Half.com.  Various books from classes, purchased, etc that I’ve read that I really don’t need anymore.  It’s amazing how moving can be a motivator to get rid of books.  BookMooch works on the concept that you give and take books for just the cost it takes you to give a book (media mail for a regular book is 2.00$USD).

So, when I started moving, I tossed everything up on BookMooch—I’ve given away 23 books so far and gotten 3… renewing some classics that I had years ago.  Inventory of books available is here.

Categories: Everything Else

Review: MSDN Enhanced Search

For the past week and a half, I’ve been using, and evaluating, the new MSDN Enhanced Search.

The task?  For Microsoft-based queries, use the MSDN search for a week (rather than google.com with site:msdn.microsoft.com) and compare expectations, results, and usability.

For the review, I’ll use a single query to provide comparison.

Search:  “Sys.Application.add_init()”

Likes

1. I really like the RSS feeds.  I can think of several ways, especially by product or technology, to consume those RSS feeds on our technical portals at the office and on my blog.

2. The autocomplete feature is very useful if you’re unsure of how something is spelt or want to browse through a namespace.  For example, if you knew what you were looking for was in System.Web.Caching, you could type that in to the search box and let autocomplete simply return what falls under there.  I’m not sure if this was the intended use, but it works quite nicely.

Auto complete functionality for namespaces

In addition, for those who know exactly what they’re looking for, the delay is enough that it doesn’t hinder a quick search.

Dislikes

1. I wish I could pre-refine my topics from the initial search page.  Searching and THEN refining requires two steps, two page reloads, and, in it’s current build, about 15–20 seconds in page loads.  If I’m searching for a query and know ahead of time that I just want to look at the MSDN Documentation, let me set that. ๐Ÿ™‚

2. Filtering by Language sometimes filters out “correct” results.  After our discussions, this appears to be less of a matter of the search engine and more to how articles and posts are tagged within the libraries.  With this in mind, filtering by a specific version of language is almost useless.

3. Not being able to use the autocomplete functionality with FireFox is a real drag.  I’m honestly not sure if this is an issue with FF3 or the MSDN search site, but from Firebug’s POV, I get a 400 error when I try to query.

Firefox Snafu with AutoComplete

UPDATE: 4–5 refreshes of the page in FireFox and it seems to work. Why?  I’m not really sure.  It seems the 400 error is more of a timeout than an actual error, but the GET request is only 200ms each time it fails.  Odd.

4. Not so much a “dislike” as an “hmm”—I use the browser built-in search bars a lot.  I rarely open up to a “search page” because of it.  Unfortunately, the cool features of MSDN Enhanced Search (autocomplete, refinements, etc) require you to be on the page to use them.  Perhaps a new searcher toolbar that adds these features into IE and FireFox could be made available OR a search bar (similar to Desktop Search) for Windows that I could toss down and always have access to MSDN resources.

Suggestions

1. Work on reducing the number of requests and load times (already discussions about this in the forums, but adding it to the list).  We’re on a dedicated OC-3 line here at the office, but I’m impatient. ๐Ÿ™‚

For example, the Google query requires 5 requests and 948 B for the first result page to come up (905 B of that from cache). 

Google Page Loads

The MSDN Enhanced search requires 30 requests, 183 KB, and almost 5 seconds to download. 

MSDN Enhanced Page Loads

Repeating the same query over again narrows it down to only 7 requests (65 KB), but doesn’t seem to speed up the returns.

Repeated MSDN Enhanced Page Loads

2. It’d be great if “Refine By’s” allowed you to toggle them on and off.  In the current build, refining is an all or nothing.  You can’t refine by “Blogs and Forums” by checking each one—you have to refine by Blogs, check the results, go back, refine by Forums, check the results.  Time consuming and painful.  On the forums, they’ve already noted that they’re checking into this—and I’m excited to see the results.

Refinements on MSDN Enhanced Search

3. Work with the MSDN Documetation groups—if I parse out and am searching just for C# results, then have those preslugged as the language settings on the MSDN documentation.  That’d be great!  Per #2 in Dislikes, it’d be nice if I searched for “Func<T>” and filtered by C# 2008, that I’d get the C# 2008 (or .net 3.5) documentation for Func<T>.

4. It’d be great if, in future versions of MSDN, that searching for help in Visual Studio and other Microsoft products worked similar to Enhanced Search.  Currently, the “help” in most Microsoft products leaves much to be desired and, like VS2008, is simply redirecting to msdn.microsoft.com anyway.

5. Different versions of documents are hard to disseminate unless you look at the URLs—which gets painfully slow if looking for a quick answer.  In the example below, both documents point to information on System.Net.Mail; however, the first is for VS2008/.net 3.5 and the second is for VS2005/.net 2.0.  You can only tell by the URL.

Conclusions

On a matter of scope—I see MSDN Enhanced Search as a means of searching MSDN documentation and, to a degree, forums.  If I need to know what methods are part of an object or a specific syntax, this will be the place to come.  I really do like the Enhanced Search over all other existing Microsoft searches.

Unfortunately, 9/10 of the information I search for tends to come from sources outside Microsoft (non-MSFT blogs, forums, etc)—non usage/technique queries.  It’s hard to justify using MSDN Enhanced Search to JUST search Microsoft materials and then go “oh, well, didn’t find it, guess I’ll hit Google”—and then have to wade through those same Microsoft materials as well as the rest of the world.  Just food for thought.

I want to thank Chris Slemp for the opportunity to provide feedback and test out the new functionality for the MSDN Enhanced Search.  While I’m a Googler to the core, I look forward to seeing how the MSDN search evolves and improves—and how I can integrate it into my searches.