A Break At Last

Hurrah! Tomorrow I’m on holiday, for the first time in a fair while. It’s only for a day, but it’s better than nothing!

One thing that has really taken some getting used to, since leaving uni, is the non-stop attitude of work. Uni may be stressful at times, but the “real world” is down right exhausting at times. No more can I sleep till 11, go to a computer lab at 12 and leave half way through. Oh no. 9-5 every day without fail. 45 minutes for lunch, and that’s your lot… and all to pay the bills and the debt you acquired as a student. No 6 month holidays either.

The scary thing is, I probably have the easiest job in the I.T. department, but even that is pretty non-stop. It’s been one thing after the next, recently.

The Big One has been the redevelopment of the company’s web presence. It’s been several months of brainstorming-coding-testing-repeat and has certainly been one of my biggest challenges so far. I haven’t been responsible for the public website, but the “Client Area”. I’ve had to build a secure system that is also very dynamic and serves the needs of our clients. From displaying a simple weekly report, to implementing a method of transferring hundreds of megabytes of data via the site, I’ve had to strech myself to build what we needed. The end is in sight for that project – the external testers are picking their way through it (or should be!) and we hope to have it “out the door” within a month or two.

The latest project has been the DTI/SHARP IOR eNewsletter. Well, this isn’t really a “new” project, as I’ve had to deal with this one every few months for over a year now. However, it needs a major revamp. For a start, it’s very invalid HTML, and uses tables for layout – not very accessible and a pain to update… it takes around 2 weeks for me to turn the articles into the web pages. Second, it looks just plain crap! There are also a few new features that need to go into it, to increase interaction between the site and the users…

My plan is to turn the IOR e-newsletter into a lean, mean, XHTML/CSS machine… For the type of content that it is, it makes sense. For the amount of time it takes me to update the site, it makes sense. It just makes sense. Of course, I’ll have to explain to my boss the whats and whys, to try and convince him to just let me run with it.

But you know what? Despite all the stress and the workload, I’m faaaaaar happier at work than I was at uni…

–> I want one of these. <–

ChrisMcLeod.Net Edging Closer to Design Nirvana

Been working on the site this afternoon, finalising the CSS mostly…

All you heathen Netscape 4 users (upgrade your browsers, you freaks!) should now see some form of styling and formatting. It might not be the prettiest site around though… but that’s the price you have to pay for using outdated, non-standards compliant browsers. Pay attention to that message that you should now be seeing at the top of the page – it’ll make your web experience all the better

The rest of you should see a fine looking site indeed (if I do say so myself), that should display the same in any modern browser. I just have to get a few things checked and ratified for the non-windows user, before I can say it’s totally finished… If a website is ever totally finished, that is.

I’ve even set up the stylesheets so everything prints nice and clearly… ain’t I nice?

So why all this effort for a simple site? Well, I hope to use this site as a sort of “live demo” of what can be achieved through XHTML/CSS, so I can tell people why they are the way to go, with regards to web design. Obviously, my point would be moot if I didn’t practice what I preach!

So bring on the Standards Revolution, it’s about time we kicked things back into touch.
You can expect a lot more preaching on this subject from me…

Recommended Reading: A List Apart

Bloody Modern Technology…

I’m in mourning. My DVD player decided to blow itself up last night 🙁 . One minute, my girlfriend is watching “Miss Congeniality”, the next minute there’s a few funny noises, some popping, a bang and a burning smell. At first I thought it was the speaker system – I’d thought there was something wrong with them for months now and I was still recieving a picture, but upon noticing the garbage that the players LCD was spewing out and that the burnt smell was coming from the player, I had to conclude that something had blown inside the player unit itself. So it was a case of power off and unplug, before anything caught fire.

It was less than 6 months old.

I suppose it’s possibly a case of “you get what you pay for”. It was a cheapo Bush brand player, bought as bundle with the speakers, for £99 just after Christmas. Still, you would expect it to last more than 5 and three quarter months…

Personally, I blame the crap film for all this trouble 😉

So why am I not tearing down the walls of the Curry’s store that I bought it from? Well, cos quite frankly they suck at customer care. All the major high-street electronics retailers do. I would take the entire system – player + speakers – back to them (fully repackaged, as per their requirements), along with the reciept and warranty slips. I’d then explain several times what happenerd. After a few attempts to explain what happened, I’d either be told that:
a) it’s not eligable to be repaired;
b) it is eligable, but it might cost a fair bit
After that (if they take it), it’ll take a number of weeks – possibly months – to get returned to me. Most likely, it’ll fail again within 5 months.

For a £99 system, the hassle just isn’t worth it, IMO. If the customer care was decent, I might consider it… but I know it’s not. I’ve heard too many horror stories (here’s a now famous example…), and have had a few iffy experiences with high street electronics retailers myself. Instead, I’ll mutter under my breath, grumble a bit, then buy a decent player to replace the dead one. I’ve got my eye on one of these, which I’ve been told are the dogs wotsits.

Ah, modern technology… can’t live with it, can’t live without it…

End of the "Free Lunch"?

I read somewhere not long ago, that “people no longer expect things to be free on the Internet, and don’t mind paying for things anymore”.

At the time I thought “pffft. Gimme it for free or I’ll go elsewhere…” but I just realised that I have come around to this way of thinking. I no longer have any qualms about paying for software off of the net. I no longer expect all sites to have 100% free content. Instead, I find myself looking for the “pay here” button, or buying the full version in a shop. Heck, I even bought a legit copy of Windows XP Upgrade the other day. 6 months ago, I would’ve downloaded it off of Kazaa.

Obviously, I like getting freebies as much as the next person – as long as they are “worth it”, if you will. More and more, freebies aren’t worth the bother of downloading. The 2 notable exceptions that I use, are Mozilla and Open Office, but these are the exceptions.

The only thing I refuse to pay for however, is a web script (PHP/ASP/whatever). Probably because I’m a web designer, and with a bit of reading and learning, I could do whatever the paid for script does, with one of my own scripts.

But why the change? Why aren’t people demanding their “free lunch” anymore? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Or is it just me?

First Ever Smiley Found!

A piece of internet history has been discovered – the first known use of a smiley (emoticon) has been found.

taken from The Register:

The original smiley, or emoticon, invented in 1982 by Scott Fahlman but subsequently lost, has been retrieved through the efforts of Microsoft researcher Mike Jones and facilities staff at Carnegie Mellon University. And isn’t it a blessing to find Microsoft Research staff keeping themselves profitably occupied like this, when they could be posing a threat to world freedom instead?

Jones describes the process of unearthing the smiley here. Fahlman hadn’t kept a copy of his original post, and had assumed it had been lost. But he was able to help narrow down the likely dates, and extensive CMU trawls through old backup tapes finally nailed the posting down to 19th September 1982, so we’re just in time for the 20th anniversary next Thursday.. It has now been restored in all its glory here, and the full thread from whence it came can be viewed here.

Note that Fahlman’s post didn’t come out of the blue – the CMU people had been working hard on a mechanism for signifying jokes for some time, and among the rejected proposals were & and #. Nor did 🙂 win immediate and universal acceptance. On the 20th a poster identified only as Not Sharon Burks mounted a fight-back on behalf of the “gandalf vax” and its favoured emoticon. But ultimately, Fahlman triumphed, and the research team could go back to discussing Star Trek.

use the link below to view the first ever use of a smiley http://research.microsoft.com/~mbj/Smiley/Smiley.html

New Flatmate

I really am good to you people – two updates in two days!

My new flatmate started moving in today. Well, yesterday in fact. He moved some of his stuff in while I was at work. The rest’ll probably come today. Anyway, the whole thing has given me a chance to guage what type of person he is (I’ve never met him, but he’s a friend of my other flatmate Sol) – he left his CD’s at the flat yesterday. The analysis however, is not good… It would appear that my new flatmate could well be the lowest form of life: a Ned. I reach this conclusion through the sheer number of indie dross in his CD collection. He’s got nearly as many CD’s as me by the look of things, but all of them seem to be either by people like Ocean Colour Scene, Oasis, Blur, etc, or those indie compilations such as Shine.

Lets hope my stereo can go louder! 😉

Of course, the “vintage” adidas trainers left behind also had something to do with this conclusion…

Could it all coincidence? Could the guy actually be a well adjusted, normal person? Hopefully.

But see if I find a Burberry shirt…

Pantellica/Black Atom, Gigs, and the Radio Show

I’m in quite a good mood today (0_0) despite having to get up horrendously early (well, 8:30am) to get to work…

Gawd, from next week, I’ve got to do it every week day for the rest of my working life. Oh dear.

Anyway… Yeah, my weekend was rather spiffy.

First up was a gig at Lava – Black Atom, supporting Pantellica who are a Pantera/Metallica tribute band from London. Atom were ace. They got a fantastic reception, had a brilliant sound, and were generally very ace. Pantellica… hmmm. The musicianship was all there. Shame the singer wasn’t that great a metal singer. He wasn’t a bad singer by any means, he just didn’t suit metal. Especially not Metallica or Pantera. But ach well, it was fun anyway. Couldn’t help but feel a little peeved that a tribute band get to play for 1 1/2 hours, while decent “proper” bands get 45 minutes or so, and the local bands get even less time.

Saturday was a blast. It was another gig, this time at Dr Drakes, featuring Hot Mangu & Black Atom (again). Also making some noise, was yours truely, making my DJ debut (well, if you don’t count the AUBL radio show…). There was also the Elizium goth night afterwards. Despite a little confusion between me and the Elizium guys as to who was playing when, everything went pretty smoothly. I had great fun. Played a bit of everything, from Metallica/Iron Maiden etc, to A/Green Day etc. Played a few local things too – Quik, Sirius, Contra and We Become Less.

Sunday night was the radio show (AUBL on MeFM – 105.8fm 8 till 10 Sundays, 7-9 Wednesdays. Plug plug). We had Contra live in session, which was great, cos Contra are ace. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a sound engineer for this show, so I ended up doing most of the “production”, trying to get the levels right and stuff. It was all an ace laugh anyway, and the show went pretty well really. Only 3 more shows left I think… oh well, it’s been fun.

Anyway, suppose I’d better go and get some work done…

Earliest Recoverable Blog Post

So what have I been up to? The usual really. Been to some absolutely fantastic gigs. Got some photo’s of some of them too. I’ll put them up soon(ish).

Other than that, it’s been exam time. Fun…

Also been working a little. Start full-time work on the 3rd of June 🙂  “LOOOOAAAAAAADSA MONEY!”

Other than the above, I’ve just basically been going out, having a laugh, etc. I’m waiting on the new Star Wars film to come out. It’s gonna be ace!

Also been buying lots of Transformers related stuff recently. Getting back to my youth kinda thing really…