Sunday, September 8, 2019

the 32767px hack

There was a time, a decade ago, where using <table> for layout was reviled as horrendously poor form (and obviously it's semantically messy, and puts too much display information in the html markup) but CSS and proper html couldn't yet simply do what was simple to do in tables. But: Tables were pretty good at letting you indicate how you wanted unknown sized content to sit relative to other content. Not until flexbox and css grid layout appeared, really.

In those days,  doing something like - getting multiple column-y divs to be as tall as each other without knowing how tall their content was tricky, this GIF shows the challenge:

One solution was the Equal Height Columns Hack where you would - I'm not kidding - add 32767 pixels worth of padding at the bottom, but then undo that with the negative equal value of margin.

I was kind of bitter. This kind of thing wouldn't even register as an challenge for a table-based layout - and using a table seemed MUCH less horrifying than this 32767 pixel garbage. (Apparently the number was empirically derived as large but not too large for most browsers). And really, is having an endless pile of nested <div> that much worse than non-data <table>?  But I'm a hopelessly out of touch caveman for thinking so? OK.

I'm over it now, and am delighted CSS provides solid options that are semantically good. But overall I will always err on the side of pragmatic simplicity over semantic purity.

(Here's a similar grumbling blog entry from 2012 - using floating divs was another solution for solving problems caused by abstaining from tables)

Friday, September 6, 2019

letsencrypt is so so good

Just a public note of admiration for Let's Encrypt - getting SSL for a site used to be a weird and costly pain in the ass, but they make it so easy (at least if you have command line access to your webhost)

Monday, September 2, 2019

tightly packing uneven squares via CSS (or js)

Like I've mentioned One of the toughest part of Porchfests is making the printable guide. Although I wish everyone would just use my groovy mobile sites, apparently many people feel more comfortable with a piece of paper - but it's a lot of information to try to pack into just a few sheets.

For JP Porchfest I used a block schedule:

However, Belmont Porchfest tends to have only one band per porch, so this kind of layout wastes a lot of space.

Also... just having band names isn't that appealing to be honest. What if we could get the band descriptions in there as well? Would that make a more appealing display? Let people really get a feel for what they want to see?

I tried using inline-block and then float, and got something like this:
It wasn't quite what I had in mind... I'd really love something to make better use of the space.

This stackoverflow question pointed me to - their default "masonry" layout provided me something like
That seems much more likely to make a better use of space!

the poetry of technology

I found this Hugo Williams poem I blogged a long while back:
I phoned from time to time, to see if she's
changed the music on her answerphone.
'Tell me in two words,' goes the recording,
'what you were going to tell in a thousand.' 
I peer into that thought, like peering out
to sea at night, hearing the sound of
waves breaking on the rocks, knowing she
is there, listening, waiting for me to speak. 
Once in a while she'll pick up the phone
and her voice sings to me out of the past.
The hair on the back of my neck stands up
as I catch her smell for a second.
at the time I wrote how I loved that message she used. but now I'm struck what a beautiful, poetic, dramatic technology we had for... what, 20-30 years? From 1975 to 2005? The idea of screening calls live, the plaintive "if you're there, pick up... please pick up"... we've lost that! Arguably though it's part of the whole trend away from voice...

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

the computers of our lives

Been on a slight computer nostalgia kick.

A while back I made a list of all the computers, PDAs, and phones I had had (but never went to update that for iPads, come to think of it.)

In talking about this kind of stuff on the Lost in Mobile WhatsApp group, I got to thinking about Psions- more popular in the UK than the USA, they were these powerful clamshell baby computers. The Psion Series 5mx was pretty amazing. More so than the PalmPilot I was using around the same era.

Monday, August 26, 2019


I think about this ad, sometimes, about how an iphone/smartphone replaces all these devices...
sometimes the most amazing part is like 3000 songs I love, on me at all times. But a 2001 iPod could do that more or less. And is that more or less impressive than streaming, which turns your phone into a radio, albeit one tuned into a custom radio station just for you....

See also Everything From This 1991 Radio Shack Ad You Can Now Do With Your Phone

Monday, August 19, 2019

the social network graveyard

Why These Social Networks Failed So Badly - myspace and vine are the ones I think are the biggest losses. Along with the blogosphere in general.