HTML5 and CSS3

10 December 2010

I’m interested in getting into CSS3 and HTML5 at the moment, a notion inspired by seeing pages like this one. At the time of writing it says “Dive Into HTML5” in a non-standard font, one I’m fairly sure I don’t have installed and I find this enthralling.

I don’t wish to create pages covered in multiple fonts, animated GIFs and assorted flash nonsense, but I really like the idea of creating a page using some sort of font to give a distinct style. At the moment I could do that by creating images using said fonts, but that’s costly both in time and bandwidth. Wouldn’t it be marvellous to have a page that was both beautiful and responsive?

From the little I’ve read about HTML5’s syntax improvements the markup of it makes much more sense, and looks like it has been designed for web pages, rather than linked documents. There’s a Nav tag, for example, which exists to define an area for navigating the page/site; better late than never, I suppose!

CSS3 is another area that I’d like to get good at, as my current CSS skills are relatively primitive. Sure, I can set a font size, but I’m not confident writing anything from scratch, a problem which I’d like to rectify.

I’m trying to find a UK seller of HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith, as I’ve heard good things about it. I’m not really looking for a comprehensive manual – I’m no developer – but something that gives me the gist of the new stuff and how to use it for basic web pages. I’m not going to be coding a CMS or anything, but being able to build something that I wouldn’t be ashamed to show people would be about right.

After hearing this news, I had the following to say:

I see it in clothes shops, I read about it in magazines, and I sometimes see it for myself - people seem to have been conned into liking things from the 1980s.

Speaking as a thing from the '80s (born in, not experienced) I feel this should be considered shameful. The fashion was dreadful, the culture corny, and then there's the way it embraced greed...

A bit of greed is good, as long as we're no talking Gordon Gecko. By that I mainly mean entrepreneurship, not just a desire for money and possessions - the desire for freedom, not the desire to pour ever increasing amounts into the bottomless pit of consumerism.

Then there's all the negativity towards Margaret Thatcher, which I may have written about before (at the moment it slips my mind, which is a little ironic in a bad taste kind of way...). I don't know which of her policies caused the most hatred, but I certainly have respect for such strong leadership. I'm actually quite satisfied with the current UK government at the moment, as it happens.

I don't have any real big party affiliation - I dislike the Tories, hate Labour, and feel relatively indifferent towards the Lib Dems (so they got my vote). Getting a Conservative government tempered by the Lib Dems seems to be quite a good arrangement, preventing excesses by both sides.

I also hear that Labour's finances are in quite a sorry state (£20m in the red according to John Prescott) which makes me very happy. The damage they've done to British agriculture is disgraceful and have soured me from ever voting for New Labour. If a new generation of Labour came along and wasn't godsawful I would at least consider them, but not New Labour.

It seems the Australians are looking at a coalition government themselves, perhaps it'll be a new trend, but that's probably too much to hope for.

I was talking about the 80s, wasn't I?

Architecture, video games, culture, at least in Britain, oh yes, what about them? All worthless, that's what!
The early nineties weren't much better I will admit, but it feels like things are slowl improving, which is of course pleasant.

Perhaps I should consider a career in politics after university.

This morning I was greeted by a tweet from Diaspora with an update of how the work on their product has been going over the past month. In May they secured enough funding to get started and since then they’ve been working feverishly to get things up and running.

What is Diaspora? (“Dee-aspo-rah”)

From what I have read and understood it is a decentralised social network, based on federated servers, kinda like running your own email server or Wave server.

What this means is that I could run a Diaspora “seed” on my hosting server, or my home server, and create a social network, which would happily link up and communicate with any other Diaspora seeds.

Why would I want to do this?

As it would be running on my server, the data is in my hands, not the hands of some random corporation or multinational of dubious moral credentials. There’s probably other reasons too, but that’s the reason I can see being the most important.

Other things that I like about Diaspora..

  • Standards compliance
  • Open source
  • Encryption as part of the original design
  • Plugin support

Here’s a video they released recently:

Diaspora Message Propagation (pre-alpha!).

So, there you have it I guess. There’s not much more to say for now, but this looks like an interesting technology to me. I don’t like Facebook so a competitor that is significantly more technically competent appeals to me.

I was asked recently why I put so much effort into Gorkamorka and our ongoing project to create an expansion pack for it, something which I thought might be worth posting on here.

To explain I have to take you on a journey through a few periods of my personal history, explaining a few things along the way. If you’re not interested, turn back now, you have been warned.

Gorkamorka was my first tabletop game, having discovered it shortly before breaking my left arm in 1998. I was faced with a Summer mostly on my own with my arm in a cast. Whilst this was a little awkward, it wasn’t too devastating. In fact I barely remember it because of the great enjoyment I got out of Gorkamorka, having been given the boxed set. One thing that did upset the young me was what I was told when I visited Games Workshop, having constructed my mob; that I was not allowed to play the game in store.

Seeing as this was my first game, I was devastated, or at least quite miffed. Why would they sell it and have a whole shelf dedicated to products one was not allowed to use in their store? I don’t remember what they might have told me then, but I think a small part of me died that day. Yes, that’s absurdly melodramatic, but back then I was only 11 and considerably more sensitive than I am now.

It was that Autumn that I started a new school, my first and only boarding school, where I was thrown into an environment where we were expected to grow up quickly. Gone was the playground of the previous school, but in its place we had sport by the afternoon full. However, as I had only just had my cast removed, I was “off games” for the first half of the term, giving me lots of time on my own, which I spent working on my miniatures, one of the only bits of escapism I had in an otherwise relatively hostile environment, at least compared to my previous schools.

Despite this and a few friends interested in the hobby, I never got to properly play Gorkamorka, something which was always a source of disappointment for me. A year later I got to play Necromunda, which was great, but I had to put my desire to play Gorkamorka on hold indefinitely. That was how things were for over ten years, during which time I got into Warhammer 40,000 (3rd Edition) and Mordheim, eventually shelving my models having been mistreated by Games Workshop for the umpteenth time and deciding that enough was enough.

Then, in 2009, now firmly established in Edinburgh, I decided to see whether there were enough people in the local area to play a tabletop skirmish game with. Initially I planned to play Mordheim and took the time to finish painting my Mordheim warbands (on my to-do list since the year 2000..) and spent a little while designing and building some portable Mordheim terrain. What I discovered doing this was that not only did I still have the skills I used to have, but that I was actually significantly better at building and painting than I was when I was younger. I also found that I had much more patience with painting, making it far more tolerable, often enjoyable (when I was younger I would paint to have them painted, although not purely for functionality, I had standards).

With this knowledge I decided to try to arrange a Gorkamorka campaign amongst friends and to try out a rebel grot mob. Back in the day there were metal grots, of which I had a few, but now there were excellent, and more importantly cheap, plastic gretchin for sale. A couple of packs from somewhere like Wayland Games and my old bitz box resulted in a Rebel Grot Mob with a Big Lugga and two Cuttas.

Whilst they didn’t do too well in the tester game or two they played in, they did rekindle the hope that I might at last get to play in a Gorkamorka campaign. Fast forward a year and I find myself in a campaign with four other players and nearly twice as many mobs. It may seem silly, but this makes me incredibly happy. It may have taken over a decade, but I’m finally getting to play a game I fell in love with as a child. Every minute I spend playing, painting, writing, planning, or talking about it with other enthusiastic players makes my heart soar.

Eventually I imagine I’ll be ready to put the game to rest for another few years, at last sated, but for now at least I’m going strong. Hopefully this can adequately explain my love of Gorkamorka and all its silliness.

Is it as good as I hoped it would be?

To be honest, I can’t say I remember how I hoped it would be, all those years ago. What I can say is that it’s far better than my current self could have hoped it would be, something which makes me incredibly grateful to the friends that make it possible for me to play it.

Keeping the place tidy

21 April 2010

Recently Shot Of Jaq released an episode in which data storage and data destruction were discussed, which got me thinking.

I've seen search systems like Beagle, Spotlight, and Google Desktop Search but none of them quite satisfy what I'm looking for. You probably aren't like me and probably don't have files collected over the best part of ten years, so perhaps my solution is overly complicated. However, if you are untidy, but wish to be tidier, this might be of use.

I would like to have a desktop AI which learns my behaviour. It would require a whole host of abilities to work properly but I think we're nearing the stage where it's feasible. It would need to learn to recognise a user's preferred filing system, if one exists (I file my photos by quarter, Q1 2010, Q2, etc..).

It would also need to have simple user input - preferably through either a chat prompt or spoken words. We have the technology to build reasonable, learning chat bots after all, and it would need to be able to ask the user questions about the data.

That said, when first running it would need to observe for a week or two before acting, simply to give the user time to demonstrate things to it, importantly, when to interject with questions. I'd hate for it to be one more nagging program for the user to deal with!

Perhaps Wednesday afternoons are usually quiet for a couple of hours, a fact that could be established by monitoring user behaviour.

There are a whole load of issues relating to the concept but in general I think the idea has merit and should be explored.

I ain't dead.

07 April 2010

I've been monitoring the stats for the various websites I maintain and it occurs to me that even though this is the first time I've updated my personal blog since November, I'm still getting ~120 hits per month.

Sure, it's not a huge amount, but it is consistent.

There's several things I could blog about but it could be a while before I do so. This blog is of course not dead, after all, I've had it for quite some time and there are always times when silence descends.

My life hasn't suddenly become boring, quite the opposite.