Archive for the 'Geek' Category

A quick tip on concentration

I’m easily distracted in the office, especially when I’m working on something less than engaging. Here’s two things I’ve started doing to aid concentration:

  1. Set your browser’s homepage to the web-site you’re working on right now, as opposed to something eternally distracting like popurls.
  2. Hide the bookmarks toolbar, so you’re not tempted to click on any of the lovely buttons sat there saying click me!

Simple things, but they work for me. Anybody got any others?

Sometimes it comes out of nowhere

I’d been fighting with my own imagination all day. I was trying to get my head in the right place to design something and it just wasn’t happening. Photoshop was sat there, wide open, but nothing was happening.

I spent some time answering people’s questions on the SitePoint forums. I doodled for a bit. I looked at the various CSS gallery sites. I even read A List Apart’s stunningly well timed new article, Designing Through the Storm to no avail. I read through some of my RSS feeds but there was nothing that grabbed me.

It just wasn’t happening. My mind was in the wrong place.

I stared at the blank canvas in Photoshop. I stuck our corporate logo on there and suddenly it wasn’t quite so blank anymore. Now, what if I was to run the nav down there this time…?

The next time I looked up it was 7 p.m. and everybody else had left the office. I had the beginnings of a nice mock-up in front of me now though. That icon looks out of place there, though… nope, leave it, the cleaners have started hoovering, time to get out.

I bet when tomorrow rolls around I’ll have lost the thread again.

See, that’s how you do it!

You may remember the rants I had about the awful new web-sites launched by Hope, Mojo and 24Seven a while back. I was beginning to wonder if we would ever see the mountain bike industry launch a decent website. Well at long last it’s happened: Santa Cruz Bicycles UK have redesigned – and sugarstreet did a damn good job of it.

It looks fantastic. It works well. The HTML code is good. The Javascript is unobtrusive and the site continues to work with it switched off. The images have meaningful alt-content. The content is good.

Obviously it’s not perfect: The navigation isn’t particularly bulletproof and falls apart when I scale the text up. That’s just about all I can find that’s wrong with it right now though, which puts it leagues ahead of most other bike-related sites.

Good work peeps.

[Disclaimer: Mattmagic, the designer behind the redesign, is a friend of mine. My verdict on the website would be the same if I didn’t know him from Adam.]

Accidental purchase

Would you look at that?

Well, perhaps it wasn’t entirely accidental, but I appear to have bought myself a new Apple MacBook.

So far it appears to be pretty lovely. Being used to a Windows machine, I’m still getting used to the slight keyboard odditites and lack of a right mouse button, but it’s proved to be a fairly easy transition so far.

I switched it on, filled in my details, chose a wireless network… and we’re done. Start up iTunes and within seconds I’m streaming music from the rest of the house. It’s a bucket full of aceness!

Right, what’s the text editor of choice out there? I’m used to TopStyle on the PC if that’s any help. Any other must-have software I need to download?

The obligatory “I’m back from @media 2006” post

So, my first @media is over and very good it was too. Highlights for me (in no particular order):

  • Jeff Veen‘s presentation: Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps. Caused me to have all manner of light-bulb moments.
  • Chris Wilson’s very informative presentation about IE7 – and (perhaps more importantly) future versions beyond that one.
  • Mexican food with Adam and Gareth.
  • The relief when Peter Crouch finally scored for England, then the elation when Steven Gerrard sealed it.
  • Kate “buying” us (Amanda, Rich, Ross, Alan and myself) the most foul champagne of all time, then running away without drinking any enough.
  • Ian Lloyd mistaking the moon for Big Ben.
  • Robin Christopherson’s presentation was absolutely amazing (despite the technical hiccups). It gave a real insight into how a blind user operates a PC and what problems they can (and do) run into on a daily basis.
  • Chatting with Adam, Nate Koechley (it’s pronounced “Keckley”) and [insert name of that canadian dude who took a liking to London Pride here] about some of the innovations going on at Yahoo! including a great sounding inverse-forum on their corporate intranet.
  • Andy “Malarkey” Clarke‘s presentation: The Fine Art of Web Design. Really inspirational talk on pushing web design out of it’s current “comfort zone”. I intend to try. I wonder how far marketing will let me push it?
  • The “hot topics” panel session which closed the conference. Jeremy Keith lorded it over Molly, Jon Hicks, Eric Meyer and Tantek Çelic, which produced a very entertaining debate.
  • Inventing a series of new microformats (including hTopTrumps and hLove – for dating websites) in the pub with Rich, Gareth and Andy.

Big thanks to Patrick, Amanda and the rest of the team for organising it and everybody else who made it such a good event. It was great to meet you all again / for the first time. Can we book tickets for the next one yet?

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The obligatory “I’m off to @media 2006” post

I’ll be jumping on a train to London in the not-too-distant future and making my way down to the @media 2006 conference, which is nice.

If you’re going, I might well see you there. I you’re not, well, yah boo sucks to you.

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Connect Player or SonicStage? Not even Sony know…

Sony confuse me.

They appear to have two pieces of music management software competing for the same space. There’s SonicStage, which came with MiniDiscs and the HD series of players. It’s ugly and horrible to use but had the massive advantage of being fairly stable. Then they’ve got the new upstart, Connect Player, which comes with the new A-series Walkmans (Walkmen?). It’s both prettier and easier to use, but until recently was horribly slow and crashed every few seconds. I’ll ignore the third option, which I believe shipped with the PSP.

The thing is, they’ve finally got the Connect Player working as it should. It’s not perfect, but it works properly. Hooray! But now SonicStage is about to trump it again, adding support for the very Walkmans that Connect was designed to work with.

Come on Sony, make your minds up. What’s it to be? Connect Player or SonicStage? It was good to keep SonicStage around while you got Connect Player into a usable state, but surely now you should drop it? If you do keep developing it, it needs a major interface upgrade at the very least. It still looks and feels like some “scene” software from the heyday of the Amiga A500.

Maybe I’ve been spoilt by the likes of iTunes — software that makes it easy to look after thousands of songs — but then so has the rest of the world. I think Sony need to think long and hard, then cull one of these applications and bring the other one up to spec.

Update — It seems that the Connect Player is no more. Let’s hope SonicStage gets an interface upgrade in the next version, because even version 4.0 is miles behind the competition.

Sony’s Connect Player is back on track

Screenshot of Sony Connect Player v1.0.04.16100. Sony recently updated their Connect Player software (to version and I’m very glad to report that it’s a huge, huge improvement. It now runs at a decent speed on my fairly modest Athlon 1800+ system and appears to be stable. Nice one Sony.


The new version wouldn’t start at first though – it just hung at the “Initialising Library” stage. The fix was fairly simple: I went to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Sony Corporation\CONNECT Player\Library (the path may be slightly different on your machine) and deleted everything in there. Once I did that, it started up with an empty library just fine.

From there, I went to File > Import Files... and pointed it at my iTunes music folder. It picked up everything (all 36.6gb of it) and imported it fairly quickly.

GAARGH! Compilations!

Alas Connect Player went the same way as SonicStage and imported each track in my various-artists compilations as a separate album. A bit of trial and error found a fairly easy way to correct this:

  1. Switch the view mode to Group By: Album.
  2. Open up one of the albums that make your compilation, right click on the track within and select Properties.
  3. Under Album Artist enter Various Artists (or whatever else you want it to say). Click OK.
  4. Now, select all of the other “albums” in that compilation (shift-click or ctrl-click to select more than one album) and drag-drop them onto the one you’ve just modified. Click OK to the warning box and hey presto! They’re all in one album.


Right, now for the one thing I’ve not tried yet: Syncing it up with my Walkman. Wish me luck…