Tidbits: Biking, Windows, CSS, Grammar, iPod

Wednesday, 2003-07-02; 07:08:00

Yes, yet another tidbits entry, about biking, the wonders of CSS web programming, and a pet peeve of mine that seems to pop up everywhere.

It seems like all of my blog entries nowadays are just tidbits entries. Of course, it's really easy to just post about a bunch of random things, but maybe I should think about posting more often, and only about one thing at a time. That way, maybe the number of posts in my categories won't be biased towards the Tidbits in the future (since it's obvious that that category is going to dominate very soon). :p

So I've started working up at SLAC again this summer; my first day was on Monday. I'm not doing anything too spectacular yet, since mainly I'm just working on updates to the group's webpage. It still hasn't gone live because the group's head honcho hasn't given the go-ahead, but it should be linked to the main SSRL page sometime this summer. Yay!

I hope that I'm going to get some more interesting jobs this summer, too... I don't particularly want to work on web development all summer. :\

I've started biking up to SLAC again, mainly because I don't want to waste gas (and money and the environment) by driving up to SLAC every day even though I have my driver's license. I also don't want to deal with CalTrain (after that annoying incident LAST summer) or the Marguerite. I've forgotten how pleasant it is to bike when you're not on major roads like El Camino -- I recently found a new bike route through Los Altos and Palo Alto that goes through Gunn High School and smacks right into the Stanford campus, so it's a perfect candidate for getting up to SLAC. Incidentally, it also goes right by Charity's house -- wave if you see me, Charity! :)

Speaking of work, what is UP with this operating system called Windows? Yeesh, I knew it sucked, but I didn't know HOW much! Yick, I hope that I can get the group to rent me another Mac this summer. That was a pleasant surprise last summer, and I would never have been able to do all that I got done without that trusty G3 iMac (since it was running Mac OS X, I was able to create a cool ideal sample weight calculator and an equally cool interactive glitch database). My top pet peeves for Windows are (and this, mind you, is for Windows NT):

-- You can't select folders in submenus (like the Programs folder in the Start menu) and have them open in the "Finder" or whatever you call the Windows "desktop explorer". This is *SO* annoying!

-- That stupid maximize button. No, I don't need this document hijacking the whole screen, I just need it to resize so I can see all my content, à la Zoom button in the Mac OS.

-- The document-centric ideology of Windows. It's incredibly annoying to have windows constrained inside windows (which are also constrained inside Windows ;) ), and it's equally annoying to have an application quit when you close a document. Grr!

-- If you have a lot of windows open (and perhaps maximized), you can't get a new window on the Desktop without first minimizing all the windows and then double-clicking on the "My Computer" icon. Arg! This is much better even in Mac OS 9 which didn't have the window-model in the finder: you just option-click on any tiny exposed portion of your desktop, and then instantly all other apps would be hidden. You could also just continually press Command-H, if no part of your desktop was exposed, until you saw a little part, and then use the above shortcut. This is SO useful! In Mac OS X, you can just click on the Finder's icon in the Dock, and then press Command-N, which is even better (since you can still use the OS 9 tactic.) Maybe there's an equivalent in Windows that I don't know about? That would be very useful.

-- Keyboard shortcuts: WHOSE BRIGHT IDEA WAS IT TO MAKE TWO-STEP COMMAND KEYSTROKES? Arg, this annoys the HELL out of me! I rarely use the keyboard shortcuts to do menu items because they're two-step so they're unnecessarily complicated, if I even remember them. Plus, they're not even standardized across applications. What kind of lame operating system IS this, anyway? Oh, wait....

ANYWAY, enough of that lame operating system. I'd rather talk about something infinitely more satisfying, like the CSS I learned today (but if you do have any tricks up your sleeve to help me cope/get around with some of the above problems, don't hesitate to leave a comment!). CSS stands for "Cascading Style Sheets", and it's a "relatively" new browser invention. By relatively new, I mean that it's already in it's third revision (CSS3), and it's been out for over 5 years now. But I've just discovered it.

It's pretty cool; it's similar in concept to object oriented programming, where you separate the interface building from the actual coding, and make "objects" that can be used virtually unmodified in other programs. The concept is this: the appearance of a webpage should be separated from its content. That way, when you want to make a change to the look, you can just modify the appearance settings, and it will automatically apply to all pages.

This introduction to CSS outlines it pretty well. Basically, you make a text file with different styles that either correspond to the names of different HTML tags, or your self-assigned names. Then, in your HTML, you just add a link to the stylesheet in the head of the webpage, and the page will instantly apply all the styles from your stylesheet. Check out the intro if you do even the tiniest bit of web development -- it will undoubtedly help immensely in maintenance.

And since I'm offering my opinion about a bunch of random things, I might as well express my annoyance at another one of my pet peeves that I see popping up on the net all the time: the bad use of verbs when using company names. All too often, people say things like "Apple are introducing a new PowerMac, utilizing a new processor from IBM dubbed the G5." No, Apple are NOT introducing a new PowerMac. Apple *IS* introducing a new PowerMac. Arg, that bugs me to no end. Grr! ROAR!

Last but not least, I'd like to note one cool thing about the iPod. If you have a Mac and use iTunes, you'll know you can use the get info window to effectively cut off the beginning and end of a song if you don't like it (like in Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice", which has about 30 seconds of total crap at the beginning and end of the song). Well, guess what? Those settings transfer to the iPod as well. Neat!

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