Category Archives: Computer Programming

Tech-nopia.

While it’s impossible to have a well-balanced perspective on anything when you’re sitting in the middle of it, it’s hard not to think that we are living in a “Golden Age” for Technology. Think about it. Within my lifetime, I’ve seen the following items appear and become ubiquitous – part of the fabric of our lives (in no particular order): Continue reading Tech-nopia.

The nature of Heaven. And Hell.

You know that joke about what countries would be in charge of things if this were Heaven or if it were Hell? You know the one…where in Heaven, the British are the police, and in Hell, it’s the Germans? Well, I got to thinking about how that would apply to technology. And I came up with this: Continue reading The nature of Heaven. And Hell.

Hacked!

I hate hackers.

If I were king of the world, morons that get their jollies by stealing passwords, infecting sites with malware, defacing sites, and any other kind of mischief, would get the death penalty. No appeals. No delays. We’d string ’em up, preferably in public, with mandatory coverage by the networks. (Obviously, the networks are acquainted with mandatory programming – they cover every Obama presser, so they shouldn’t have a problem with a sensational, money-maker like a public execution.)

About a week ago, a client notified me that there was a problem with one of the sites I host for them. I assumed – at first – that the malicious JavaScript code that had been added to their index page without permission was an isolated incident.

Not so fast. Continue reading Hacked!

Project Momentum.

There are two things I hate regarding the realities of business. I hate having to stop work on a project before it’s complete. But I hate having to return to a “cold” project after being away from it for a period of time that’s long enough to make me forget everything about it.

I’ve been working on a video game project lately. It’s not rocket science, but like all projects that require coding, you get into a thousand different decisions and judgment calls that force you to have to go back and remember what you did, why you did it, and rethink your choices.

In a way, it’s more difficult to come back to a project and work on it again (even if you comment your code religiously). It’s kind of like how they say it’s more difficult to relocate down the street than it is to move across the country. Familiarity breeds contempt. Something like that.

I crack open the source code, and I have to spend an hour or so, reviewing what I did – and why I did it. And of course, if I’m adding something, odds are, I’m going to have to either hope I was prescient enough to write code that can be easily adaptable, or code that was designed for expansion.

In a way, it’s kind of an out-of-body (out-of-mind?) experience, akin to the concept used by SciFi writers, where the protagonist is thrown into an alternate universe, where things are almost the same as the way they are back home. But not quite.

No big point here, fans of reason. No solutions offered. No revelations revealed. Just observations. And a wish that it wasn’t so bloody hard for me to go back and edit old code. Sigh…

TyperActive.

I love typography. Always have. From a very early age, I’ve been fascinated with letterforms. When I was in elementary school, I used to rubber-band two pencils together to create a crude way to draw Blackletter (a.k.a. “Old English”) lettering on posters. While other kids decorated their textbook’s book covers with drawings of muscle cars, military tanks or alien spacecraft, I decorated mine with words in a variety of typefaces. Blackletter, calligraphy, Cooper Black, Bodoni, Futura – you name it, and I experimented with it. As I grew into a career as a freelance artist, I discovered that typefaces could provide a subtext (no pun intended) to ad copy and headlines. The face I chose to design something had the power to communicate meaning, context, and even tell people how to think about the words on the printed page, before they’d even read them.

Waaaaay cool. Continue reading TyperActive.

Flying blind…

I recently (four days ago, to be exact) updated the software this blog runs on, to the latest and greatest version – i.e., WordPress v.2.7. The upgrade was surprisingly easy to do, and by all appearances, went off without a hitch. Um…ALMOST without a hitch. Seems that one of the things that got trashed along the way was the settings for my Google Analytics code. Whoops.

I usually check my GA stats on a daily basis, just to see what’s going on. Check more often, and it will drive you nuts. Less frequently, and you stand to miss a trend…or a problem.

It had been four days since I’d checked my GA account. Color me “surprised” to learn that I’d (according to GA) gone from a significant readership to ZERO hits for the last four days. That’s like going from 60 to zero in, oh, about 0.0 seconds.

Once I saw the stats, I knew something was wrong. I dialed up the New! Improved! control panel, and found that my GA settings were pooched. No code – no tracking. No tracking – no results. No results – unhappy blogger.

I’ve restored the tracking code, and all should be right in my world.

But I’ll keep checking. As Joe Bob Briggs (Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas) says, “Without eternal vigilance, it can happen here.”

CSS Hell.

If, as Voltaire once opined, “God is a comedian, playing to an audience afraid to laugh,” then CSS (Cascading Style Sheets for you non-nerds in the audience) were written by Geeks as some kind of convoluted “you can’t get there from here” joke on the rest of us. I’m sure God finds it funny. I don’t. 

Back when the World (Wide Web) was young, all you needed to create websites was a copy of Notepad, a copy of Photoshop, and nerves of steel. Creating anything past the simlest of pages was a study in frustration. Editing or updating a page was worse. Torture. Client requests to “make all the body copy one point larger” could make the strongest web geek’s blood run cold. Make strong men cry. Turn weaker men to ashes. You get the picture. 

Then along came CSS. The promised land for web designers – style sheets, where you could divorce the data from the style elements. Create the pages once, then change one line of code in a style sheet and watch the changes ripple through the other pages, as if my magic. 

That was the promise. The reality is something else. Continue reading CSS Hell.

I’ve got rhythm. (And you can, too.)

 

My daughter – let’s call her “Private Digital” – is studying the violin. She played with her symphony orchestra this past Saturday. Way cool. I wish I’d been able to play with a symphonic orchestra when I was in grade school. (I got to play with a lot of jazz combos and rock groups, but that’s another story.)

What I find interesting is that in many ways, she’s much like most of my better students, back when I taught music lessons for a living. I found that the ones that were pretty sharp had more trouble with the mechanics of music, because they relied on their ears instead of their eyes. That may sound odd, since music is an aural media, but using your eyes (to read music) is essential. It’s what makes the difference between someone who plays violin and a violinist. Continue reading I’ve got rhythm. (And you can, too.)

How to start each day with a positive outlook.

[Editor’s note: Mrs. Digital forwarded this to me, and I liked it so much I thought I’d share it with you.]

HOW TO START EACH DAY WITH A POSITIVE OUTLOOK

1. Open a new Word file in your computer.
2. Name it ‘Barack Obama’.
3. Send it to the Recycle Bin.
4. Empty the Recycle Bin.
5. Your PC will ask you: ‘Do you really want to get rid of ‘Barack Obama?’
6. Firmly Click ‘Yes.’
7. Feel better?

GOOD! – Tomorrow we’ll do Nancy Pelosi!