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Saturday, January 28th, 2006 - 12:27 AM

"Rounded Corners Experimental"

Check this out! Here is a truly unique "little" window CSS object!

What's so unique about this fat little window, you ask? Well, nothing in particular, except for the fact that it employs several interesting techniques perhaps never before achieved - at least not in this exacting combination. Okay, perhaps they have, but only by a select few... after all, why bother! ;D I guess I'm just bothersome.

The images for the top and bottom rounded corner elements are derived from true 3D objects. I used a very nice, newly discovered 3D program (yes, Dave, that's your hint) to model this bar, added lighting and rendered it. I then cut, blended and spliced the rendered 3D object into workable pieces that could tile atop each other without having obvious clipping borders when the bar stretches horizontally. Go ahead and try it! Resize your browser window to your heart's content. It should look smooth at any size. The two highlights on the top and bottom of the bar were also taken from the real rendering. Obviously the rendered bar object has a little more variation in its color, but for the most part, this pieced-together bar represents the original 3D rendering pretty well.

So, instead of using a standard paint application (like Fireworks, Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro), to create the rounded corner elements, they are truly based on a real 3D object! Well, I thought it was inventive and interesting. Obviously a little CSS trickery was used to make the elements land where I wanted them to. View the source of this page and see if it makes sense to you. If not, feel free to ask me a CSS question on EsoQuery. Normally, I would have linked the CSS externally so the page code would be much leaner, and it wouldn't be so obvious how I do these little tricks... but most people know how to view externally linked CSS code anyway, and I want to be helpful, so go ahead and peek! ;)

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Friday, January 27th, 2006 - 1:59 PM

"C2F Schools"

Yesterday I got a new web design project and started on it right away. It is one I had somewhat been looking forward to. I will be designing a version of the C2F web site, the flagship site for the company where I work. I have worked on near every other site our company hosts except C2F. I do many things that effect the content of the site, like take product photos, maintain product information, etc. And I have created several graphic collages for this and that. Now I will get the chance to actually design the very layout. This will most likely be my most significant design contribution at this company so far because it is where most of the web traffic flows in and out of. The exposure will be quite broad and important.

I will of course design the site using CSS and standards compliant XHTML. Here is a very small sneak peak at a preliminary header graphic for the new design:

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Wednesday, January 25th, 2006 - 1:11 PM

"PHP Post to Blogger"

I use PHP for Esotropiart's server-side scripting, plus a MySQL database. I hand code everything simply because I enjoy knowing what's really going on. I also need this new knowledge to help me be useful in the competitive web design industry.

Last night I was trying to figure out if it is possible to post to my Blogger mirror using PHP. The reason being, of course, I could write a blog entry for Esotropiart, and the PHP script would auto-magically send the information to Blogger and create an identical post there. This would save me the step of cut & paste junkerons. Plus, the posting times would more closely match, rather than one being significantly after the other due to the time it takes to copy and post.

Of more interest to me would be the ability to define a specific post time. If you use Bloggers forms and interface, it uses the current time and date to associate with the post. I want to mirror all my old Esotropiart EsoBlog entries on the Blogger account, and I want to retain their past dates. If I reposted them on Blogger, they would have current dates and appear more recent than truly new posts instead of being in the archives.

By reading Blogger's Atom API documentation, I found out it is indeed possible to write a function to create a post using PHP (among most other desirable functions like changing a post or deleting a post). However, finding documentation to help me fully understand and implement the script was very hard to find. In fact, of the two supposed reputable tutorials on the subject (one linked to Blogger's help section), neither was successful in creating a post. At this point, I think I may have to have access to a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) library. Since I don't have administrator privileges with my hosting service, I have no control whether or not they have this feature installed. I don't believe they do. So I continue in my inability to post to Blogger with PHP. Boo hoo!

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Tuesday, January 24th, 2006 - 1:51 PM

"No Traffic? Whoopty Do"

I have been thinking more recently about the issue of not getting much blog traffic. I guess I have come to the conclusion that there might be a couple things I can do about increasing my traffic, but in the end, I must say "Whoopty Do". I realize that it is not realistic to expect many people to visit my blog. In fact, I don't visit many blogs regularly either - just those of my friends and family. So why should I expect the reverse? I just continue to write as often as I can find the time. It is a kind of journal, with some threads of useful information to contribute to the internet.

So far, I have had a few visitors who have come through search engines, looking for information on a particular topic (Jet Li, Maggie Fitzgerald, and Windows XP file sorting, for example). I find that encouraging. If someone reads one of my blog entries and finds some useful information, GREAT! I have written several short tutorials on web designs or graphics software, and I hope someone finds those useful. I also write simple thoughts and reactions to many of the movies I watch - though I'm a bit behind with that. I suppose it is possible that there are a few like-minded people out there who might happen upon my blog. Hopefully someone will be somehow ministered to by something that I write. If so, it is certainly worth my time. If not, well Whoopty Do! ;)

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Saturday, January 21st, 2006 - 10:43 PM

"Blogger Technicalibobble"

I'm still trying to find a way to post my old EsoBlog entries on my new Blogger account. As of now, I'm not sure. I could just repost them, but then they'd show up as new entries, rather than their dates matching the real date of posting. I emailed Blogger support to see if there's some way to accomplish this. I doubt I'll hear back from them, but it's worth a try, I guess. It seems like a kinda basic feature... I could certainly program it in. All one would have to do is allow the date field as an editable field in the blog entry form. The same goes for comments. It would be nice to have a way to enter comments already posted on EsoBlog on this Blogger account. Eh, we'll see. In a way, it a little bit of a nuisance to maintain 2 identical blogs at the same time. But at the same time, it can be fun and challenging. I don't like to stop learning new tricks. Eventually I'll probably write a PHP script to re-post all blogs that I enter on EsoBlog on Blogger. I think this might be possible... or not.

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Wednesday, January 18th, 2006 - 10:27 AM

"Who Me? Couldn't Be... Then Who?"

Who took the cookie from the cookie jar?

Has anyone ever noticed that Microsoft rarely takes full responsibility for their mistakes and bugs? I'm sure to most people this is a given, but here's a specific example.

When an error occurs in Windows XP, and a program is forced to close, an error box will appear, asking if the error information should be sent to Microsoft for troubleshooting purposes. In the past, I usually closed this notification without sending the error. Nowadays I send the report half or more of the time. I usually don't read any follow-up information provided by the error report, because it's boring and doesn't usually provide any way to fix the problem. One pattern I have noticed on the occasion I have read the reports is this: Microsoft never admits blame. Look at an excerpt from the following error report that resulted when Microsoft Internet Explorer randomly crashed and burned:

Internet Explorer is not responding: try troubleshooting steps

Thank you for submitting an error report. This is the best way to let us know when Internet Explorer stops responding.

Problem description

It's hard to determine exactly what causes Internet Explorer to stop responding (this is also called an application hang or, simply, a hang), but it's usually due to one of the following:

* Spyware, adware, or other malicious software: If you have downloaded free software from the Internet, you might have inadvertently downloaded spyware with it. Spyware is software that can display advertisements (such as pop-up ads), collect information about you, or change settings on your computer, usually without your permission. Don't worry, you can usually remove spyware.

* Internet Explorer add-ons: Add-ons are software "extras" that add features or tools (an Internet toolbar for example) to Internet Explorer.

* Computer viruses: If your computer has a virus, the virus can cause Internet Explorer to stop responding.

Notice how they place this notice at the very top of the report, shifting the blame to someone else. Rather than saying, "Thank you for the information. We will get right on the problem and use this report to improve future versions of our software to better serve you!", they name 3 possible sources of the error, none of which would be Microsoft's fault.

The error report states that the 3 most likely causes of IE crashing are:

  1. Spyware, adware or other malicious software. Translated: "Some bad person is attacking our perfectly coded, innocent application, so it's not our fault."
  2. Internet Explorer add-ons. Translated: "If you had a clean install of IE, you would never have any problems. It must be one of those add-ons, like Flash or something. It couldn't possibly be our software, but must be a plugin... even if you weren't accessing one at the time."
  3. Computer viruses. Translated: "The worst of the bad has attacked your computer, and you have a virus. That's not our fault, and our software is functioning normally."

The irony of points 1 and 2 is that, if it was indeed a problem resulting from spyware or a virus, it would still possibly be a problem with Microsoft's product. There have historically been many holes in IE or Outlook that allow such malicious programs to pass through while a user is performing normal, everyday tasks. Granted, it is not Microsofts responsibility to take the blame for malicious hacks, but oftentimes they come through because of a blatant flaw in how the program was made.

I'm not by any means a Microsoft hater, and I am generally unbiased. I just found their error messages a little lofty and standoffish. When something buggy happens with their software, they should be willing to admit the possibility that there is something wrong with their software, rather than shifting the blame.

By the way, whenever Firefox crashes, Microsoft makes sure to provide a link in the error report that specifically points out that there is probably something wrong with Firefox. ;)

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Monday, January 16th, 2006 - 10:24 PM

"EsoBlog Mirrored on Blogger"

Well, this should be interesting. In December I started a Blogger account with the intention of linking it to my regular Esotropiart EsoBlog. I didn't really want to duplicate the blog or have to maintain two different blogs at the same time. But I wanted the benefits of linking into an already existing, world-wide blog community like Google's Blogger. So I created a dummy account with a link to Esotropiart.

Now I have decided to actually work on the Blogger side of EsoBlog and get it up and running. I am working on a template that will reflect the look and feel of my own web site, so anyone who frequents my web site will feel quite at home. In fact, it will be a little hard to determine whether you are looking at my external blog or the Blogger version. This might prove confusing in the end, but I don't think it will matter. I will attempt to create or discover technology to allow comments posted on either side to show up in both places. For now, I'll have to manually copy comments from one to the other. We'll see how that goes.

I am hoping that by creating this Blogger account, I will potentially get increased traffic because it will be inside the Blogger network, rather than an independently hosted blog. We'll see. It probably won't make much difference unless I really promote it and tell people about it. And of course people would actually have to be interested in what I am writing about. That's a stretch! :)

So feel free to post comments on either page, knowing that eventually they will show up in both places. Some postings that are very specific to Esotropiart, I may not re-post on Blogger, and vice versa. But for the most part, they will be mirror images of each other (theoretically). Wish me luck! Oh, wait... I don't believe in luck. Okay, so wish me Lork.

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Sunday, January 15th, 2006 - 4:49 PM

"Yet Another Graphics Software Takeover"

Adobe buys Macromedia for 3.4 billion dollars

If you read my blog consistently you will know that I generally am not fond of software companies merging and buying each other out. Read my ranting about Corel's foolhardy buyouts here: "What Was I Talking About Again? Serif and Corel Ramblings". I'm a little late in reporting, but I have been aware of Adobe's takeover of Macromedia for some time now.

I feel that rarely does a software buy out benefit the end user (like me). Usually it just means less direct communication and concern for the customer. It seems the real motive behind such takeovers is profit (One could argue that all business decisions work their way down to a profit motive). Someone gets the idea that "We could make some serious money off this deal", and they go for it. I don't think the first concern is ever "Our customers would really benefit from this move". Such excuses might be mentioned as an afterthought when executives are interviewed by the media, but the reasoning behind these "benefits" is mostly contrived after the dollar signs fade from their eyes.

Personally, I don't really like any software company that buys out competitors that begin to show signs of innovation. It seems Adobe has adopted Corel's ideology that no one can be allowed to compete. I'm actually surprised Corel didn't beat Adobe to the punch in aquiring Macromedia... perhaps Corel has spread itself too thin and no longer has the necessary funds for more ridiculous mergers. And, of course, I'm sure so much money is offered in these deals that the smaller competing companies simply cannot refuse. It's just too bad no one has enough strong ideals to refuse offers of exorbitant money and continue producing ground-breaking yet affordable software.

Macromedia was producing some incredibly innovative software with very unique feature sets that Adobe, Corel or any other graphics big boy could only dream of coming up with (or copycat later). Now that Macromedia is to be absorbed into the Adobe landscape, innovation of this sort could fade. If the creativity flow does not stop, it will at least come with a higher price tag. Adobe is notorious for charging preposterous prices for their software, and I'm sure whatever titles result from this takeover will be no exception.

As a web designer I am curious what the implications of this enormous takover will be for the field. Adobe's PDF document-sharing format and former Macromedia's Flash format are two of the biggest influences on web content, second perhaps only to the standards-recommending W3C committee. Currently, I concern myself more with standards-compliant markup, using XHTML, CSS and Javascript. Perhaps by some impossible stroke of corruption, Adobe will buy W3C and dictate the entire world of web content. That would really suck! In that case, Adobe's greed and market share would rival Microsoft's. Nonetheless, this Macromedia takeover will affect the future of the internet in one way or the other, and I guess I just have to roll with the punches, like it or not.

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Thursday, January 12th, 2006 - 11:13 PM

"Lunaura EsoLogo"

Lunaura EsoLogo

In my efforts to further compact the interface of Esotropiart, I quickly created this simple logo. I needed something with a slimmer profile. I'm not sure if I like it or not, so we'll see how long it lasts.

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Thursday, January 12th, 2006 - 2:13 AM

"Wendy's Drive Up Window"

It was always a running joke in my family to order Frosties at Wendy's. I like Frosties. Do you know the full name of this cocoa-licious treat? It's... ahem, "Frosty Dairy Dessert". The running joke is to actually order a "Frosty Dairy Dessert" when pulling through the drive-up window. No one calls it that, obviously, and that is the comical value. Those who work at Wendy's are probably tired of hearing it from mindless newcomers, and it brings giggles to the veteran customer. It's like totally worth it!

Actually, just to throw a new variation in the works, I dare you to go to Wendy's and order a "Frosty Diary Dessert". That's right, switch the a and the i! Woo hoo! Yeah! Here's a movie to help inspire you to this insidious icey variation station, otherwise known around the world as Liquified Turkish Delight (nothing like it)... Click here to be inspired.

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Wednesday, January 11th, 2006 - 2:10 PM

"Where's the Artwork?"

A friend of mine just asked me if the EsoGalleries represent a good percentage of my work to date. Will I ever add anything new, or do I have other art that hasn't been posted yet? Well, the answer is yes. I have tons of art I simply need to scan and add to the galleries. The most troublesome part of this process is updating the database. Some of my work was created many years ago, and I can't remember enough about it to write anything interesting. With the new database structure, I have several fields to fill with information about the artwork. It is such a pain to come up with something to write. Writing is not my strong suit. No wonder I don't have more people reading my blog! I know, I have a tendency to be long winded... and most people on the internet simply don't have the patience to read anything longer than 30 words or so. :) But hey, that's my style!

The artwork on Esotropiart is also not representative of my skill or ability. Not to say that I have any special skills in art, but much of what is out in the galleries right now is old and childish, a lot of doodles on scratch paper. Most of my work is somewhat goofy anyway, but I do have some pieces that I consider worth looking at. My goal in creating this site Is not to present myself as a master artist, but to showcase everything I've ever done, even if it is when I was a child. Part of the theme of Esotropiart is that life is a process. Even the art itself demonstrates this. Eventually there will be ways to sort the galleries by creation date. I will probably also create a rating system so that the most liked images would be given display priority, etc. Ah, well see. I can only do one thing at a time. Right now I'm mostly working on making EsoBlog a full-featured blog.

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Tuesday, January 10th, 2006 - 1:44 AM

"Naive's Topical Index of Sorts"

Hey, guess what? I'm actually using the topics feature for a little some'm some'm. You can now see which topics each EsoBlog entry belongs to simply by looking up to the left, below the title. If I have chosen a topic or topics for the entry, they will show there. Eventually, I plan to make those topics into links which will limit EsoBlog's range or scope to entries with similar topics. Other more advanced features will come later... as my available time and inspiration increase.

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