Archive for 2006


Dan’s recent post about software got me thinking. Maybe you’re like me, where you love trying out cool new apps. “Wow, this is great! It’ll save me time and I’ll be far more productive”. But after a day or so the excitement wears off and you’re back to pencil and paper, or storing things mentally, or doing things without that exciting app again.

For general web work I tend to stick to the basics only: Photoshop, BBEdit, NetNewsWire, Transmit, and all the goodies that come bundled with OS X. I suppose the only oddball would be the Backpack Dashboard widget. I’ve found it to be one of the only productivity apps (if I may call it that) I use with any sort of frequency. I prefer the widget over the web interface, although I’m not sure if that means anything. It’s been useful for keeping track of little client bits, unpaid invoices (for which I should be using something else), etc.

Actually I’ve just thought of a few that might be worth mentioning: Iconographer (for creating favicons) and SuperDuper! (recommended by DB and used as my routine backup solution).

I’ve always considered myself a “Power User”, but damn… maybe that’s wishful thinking.

Some Speaking Events

The speaking drought is ending this summer and I’ll be taking Bulletproof Web Design on the road to two conferences. Don’t worry though, I won’t be regurgitating the book, but rather using the concepts as a platform to talk about some recent (and future) projects along with the methods and thinking that’s gone into them.

@media 2006 · London · June 15-16

Kerry and I visited (Old) England back in 1998. Loved it of course (especially Oxford). Looking forward to going back, although we originally thought this might be a first big family trip, it’ll be hard to be travelling solo. If you’re attending the conference and see a misty-eyed, intentionally (for now) bald guy glued to his iPhoto-enabled iPod — now you’ll know why.

@media looks like it’ll be a fantastic conference though, with quite an amazing line-up of speakers. Really looking forward to it.

Webvisions 2006 · Portland, Oregon · July 20-21

I’ve never been to Oregon, but have always assumed I’d really dig it. Webvisions has quite a line-up as well, spread out over two days of workshops, panels and keynotes. Should be fun times.

Mending Jack

Pardon the interruption, but this is by far the easiest way to pass along news and avoid forgetting to email everyone that we intended to.

We found out shortly after Jack was born that he had two heart defects. Thankfully they haven’t affected him negatively over the last few months, but we knew they’d need to be corrected nontheless. This past Tuesday he had surgery that fixed the problems, and after a few roller-coaster days in intensive care, as of today he’s doing really well, eating again and has just moved into a “normal” recovery room.

I’m once again in awe of the doctors and nurses that are taking care of our little guy. We’re fortunate to be in Boston (this time at Children’s Hospital) where some of the best surgeons in the world work. For instance, Jack’s surgeon is apparently the Jeffrey Zeldman of cardiac surgery, so we felt pretty reassured.

Work has of course been put on hold and emails are going unanswered while we’re living at the hospital this week. We’re hoping we can all be home sometime early next week.

Update: Finally home. Mentally and physically exhausted — but home and doing well. Whew.

The Raisin Has Ruined the Oatmeal Cookie

This evening, my wife baked an epic batch of oatmeal cookies. Let me explain why they were so good: there were no raisins in sight. The raisin has plagued the oatmeal cookie like a parasite, stifling its untapped potential as a (if not the) premier baked good of our generation.

Contrary to what you’ve probably heard, a raisin is nothing more than a shriveled grape. And its inclusion here just oozes controversy. Like a concerted front against the oatmeal farmers (?) of the world. “How do we ruin the oatmeal cookie? We’ll add dried, shriveled, rubbery fruit to it. Good. It’s settled then”.

It’s why we don’t see oatmeal cookies more often, and it’s also why the oatmeal cookie isn’t as popular as other, non-fruit-bearing treats. Smart bakers will often utilize the “chocolate chip switch”, swapping chocolate chips for raisins. Brilliant. The recipe adjustment might have done more harm than good however, due to the visual similarity between chocolate chips and raisins when they’re sitting in the finished cookie. I can never be sure whether they’re chocolate chips or raisins, and there’s no way I’m taking the chance. It’s now preferred to substitute peanut butter or butterscotch chips to avoid confusion.

Bottom line is this: leave out the raisins and start enojying a pretty darn good (if under-appreciated) cookie.


I have yet to download and install an IE7 beta, but it sounds like it’s actually time to start paying attention to the latest release (Beta 2 Preview). We’re hearing reports from MIX 06 that the browser is essentially done in terms of CSS implementation:

Really interesting stuff from the above links. I’m impressed with what we’ve heard regarding the now-standards-aware IE team. On the flip-side, Roger Johansson brings up an excellent point: whether we’ll need a new way to self-clear floats in IE7.

Wow, this is a bit frightening, as I’ve been using the easy clearing method extensively, finding it to be pretty rock solid and predictable. It’s especially handy to use this to group components that use complicated floats and most importantly keeping them independent as self-contained, bulletproof “modules”. Being self-contained means they’re not dependent on subsequent elements in order to clear, and can then be moved around at will. Handy stuff.

So, it appears we’ll need a way to self-clear floats in IE7 that doesn’t use the still unsupported :after pseudo-element and the now fixed height: 1%; trick that previous versions of IE/Win so lovingly accepted. Here’s hoping there’s an alternative out there (aside from floating the container among others). I’m sure there will be, but even then this particular method would now feature 3 different declarations in order to work across browsers (actually add a few more in if you’d like IE5/Mac to work).

Update: Roger has posted an update, where a solution using display: inline-block; instead of display: inline-table; seems to do the trick for IE7. It’s a tad more complicated as to why this works, so be sure to read Claire Campbell’s informative write-up.

Arkanoid Edition

Another year, another realignment. What started out as a long-term desire to take better advantage of the footer (putting content chunks that were previously in the sidebar down near the bottom) quickly turned into more of a CSS refresh. This version is dubbed “Arkanoid Edition” (coined by Ethan and will make sense to anyone that spent their afternoons at the arcade in the 80s).

There are too many dusty corners to clean up, and so there very well might be some areas that still need attention. But somehow this feels more comfortable right now. The colors are toned down a bit, columns feel a bit more readable, etc. Surely not everyone will be a fan, but such is the life of a web site. Change is good. But it can also be disorienting.

Boxy, but Nice

One of the struggles with the SimpleBits logo is that it’s not a logo at all. It’s an icon. And works terribly in print unless it’s enlarged properly. I’ve debated changing the logo, always settling on maintaining the brand, and instead embracing its pixellated charm. Hence the square, blocky treatments that will likely warm the hearts of 8-bit fans and yet turn away the warm-and-fuzzy brigade.


I’m no longer straddling the fixed/fluid fence! Previous versions of this site featured a little toggle up in the top right corner enabling you to switch between a fixed or fluid width by means of a little Javasript and an alternate stylesheet. How diplomatic. With this new design, I thought I’d try a centered, fluid layout, using left and right padding on the body using a percentage value. That coupled with a conservative max-width set at 900px makes for a wider-but-not-too-wide solution. If only max-width (and min-width) worked in IE (aside from the Javascript fixes that exist).

Hiding from IE/Mac

I’ve also decided to intentionally hide all CSS from IE/Mac this time around. It’s not that it would be impossible (or even that difficult) to get this particular design working. It’s just that, for this site, it’s time to move on and have one less set of hacks to worry about.

What’s great, is that it’s dead simple to hide CSS from IE/Mac using the commented backslash hack just before importing your styles. Here’s my main stylesheet, screen.css, which imports the master styles as well patches for IE/Win.

/* import stylesheets and hide from ie/mac \*/
@import url("master.css");
@import url("ie.css");
/* end import/hide */

IE/Mac won’t get any of it because of that backslash at the end of the opening comment. And this is certainly OK for SimpleBits. Your site’s statistics may vary.


Archived for posterity, and a comparison for those arriving here today for the first time, is a screenshot of the previous design.


I’ve always assumed that everyone suffers a little from the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Here in these Northeastern United States, I know we do.

I grew up dreaming of tropical lands — especially when in the middle of a frozen arctic winter. Recently, we’ve picked up hobbies that embrace the snow (e.g. cross-country skiing) but it’s inevitable that you’ll go a little stir-crazy come March. Add a baby that’s supposed to have limited travels to the mix, and you’ve guaranteed yourself some cabin fever.

Then there’s a day like today. It’s approximately 67°F. That’s pretty much a rarity in early March around here. But it’s always amazing when it happens. People seem friendlier. And it’s when a day like today comes along where I wonder if I wouldn’t appreciate it if it happened more often.

We talk about the weather a lot in New England[1]. I’m constantly watching forecasts. So, I wonder what it’s like to not think about the weather? To wake up and know it’ll be roughly the same as yesterday. Is it boring?

I both love and hate the swing of the seasons.

[1] For instance, I’ve devoted this entire entry to the weather.

Reasons I’ve Purchased a Gillette Fusion

  1. It has 5 blades.
  2. It has 5 +1 blades (not 6… 5+1. Never say that it has 6 blades. Ever.).
  3. The Fusion has more blades than any other razor, therefore it is superior.
  4. It works better than the previous 3-blade version.
  5. Because I knew it was inevitable.
  6. It gives me an interesting and riveting topic to write about.

Four Things

I’ve been meme-tagged by Ethan, and now I must comply by revealing four things for every cleverly-devised question. A warning: the answers are incredibly interesting.