Archive for July, 2007


Lost your car?

July 25, 2007

Ever lost your car in one of those multi-level carparks? Some carpark owners try to do the right thing and use animals etc. to ‘label’ the levels; others just use really big numbers and/or colour-coding. Despite that, people still can’t remember that they left their car on the ‘level kangaroo green 3’. (Aside: There was a memorable Seinfeld episode about this…)

Well, the solution is here! Craig over at Out of the Box blogged today about using the camera in his cell phone to take a picture of the sign of the level he’d parked on. So simple. So brilliant.

Of course—in true Craig style—a parking inspector/security person quizzed him about him taking photos in the carpark! At least he *saw* an official in the carpark where he parked—I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, except for those at the exit who used to take your money in the days before everything became fully automated.



Expanding column issue – solved!

July 25, 2007

I’ve been working on a website for a client and had everything working using CSS except for some issues with the left column. This left column contained some navigational elements and I was using a background color (I also tried an image) and a small right border to visually separate it from the main content area.

The problem was that no matter what settings I applied to the CSS, I couldn’t get the background color (or image) and border to expand to the length of the content in the main section. I was able to set a min-height to force it to be at least a certain length for the shorter pages, but for the longer pages, the left column colour and border just stopped at the 600px minimum height I’d specified.

After some Googling and not finding anything (mostly because I didn’t know what terms to search for!), I called my friend Char in Boston… who happened to be in California at the time… and she helped me with some sites that she’s used. (She has had the problem too but couldn’t remember what quirky thing she had to do to solve it, and not being at home, she couldn’t access that info easily either.) After a bit more sleuthing using those sites as a starting point, I found the answer here:

As I’m only testing in Firefox and IE6 at the moment, I ignored some of the warnings about interesting things that happen in other browsers and went ahead. All I had to do was add about 4 lines to my CSS – and it worked!

Here’s what I added:

* added overflow: hidden; to my wrapper (#content) DIV
* added a new style definition as follows:
#MainContent, #ContentLeft
padding-bottom: 32767px;
margin-bottom: -32767px;

(My elements are called #MainContent and #ContentLeft).

I then tested in Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 6 – and it works in both for long and short pages!!! Now to download IE7 and test there… If that works too, then I have a winner!

Thanks Char!

Update: Yep, works in IE7 too!


Internet connection

July 24, 2007

Yesterday I got a call from the local Telstra technician about the fault iinet lodged on my behalf last Tuesday. He came out in the rain and checked the connection at the station about 50m from home – and found a wire that was so close to being separated it wasn’t funny. He was surprised we had ANY connection at all, and asked if we’d had noise on the phone line – we had.

So he snipped the wire and replaced that section then came to the house to check that all was well. Everything seems hunky dory now – good speed, clean line for calls.

It took a week since I first complained about the connection to iinet to get it fixed. Yes, I cancelled the fault on Tuesday morning, but got it reinstated last Tuesday afternoon. So, even accounting for that, it still took SIX days to get fixed. It’s not as if the technician had to come from far away – he’s the local guy who lives in town and looks after the town.

My business relies on a stable internet connection, and for that reason I pay a heap of $$$ to iinet every month to be on one of their Business Plans, with a special business support number. Six days is too long. Had the connection been down the entire time, I think I might have sent them an invoice for lost income… I’d like to see how they’d react to that! They have no problem sending me an invoice each month for a service that was effectively out of service for seven days.


Yes, No, Maybe…

July 6, 2007

Jeffrey Zeldman wrote an interesting blog post a week or so ago on the problem of offering too many choices, especially in 5-star rating systems where users will invariably pick “3” because it’s neutral. To quote from his excellent post:

Three is the little bear’s porridge, neither too hot nor too cold. Three is neutral—a safe place to hide. Even in the virtual world, where nothing more consequential is being asked than an opinion, many people would rather equivocate than commit.

But present these same users with a four-star spread and you leave them no cover. Two stars out of four is not neutral. Neither is three stars out of four. Any star rating they choose will reflect an actual opinion. There is no place to hide.

His post reminded me of Kathy Sierra’s “zone of mediocrity” where, to paraphrase Kathy, she said that any passion (love or hate) about a product/piece of software/website is always good – what you don’t want are users who feel nothing, who are in the zone of mediocrity. When most users are in that zone, you can pretty much kiss your product goodbye.

Some of Kathy’s posts on this subject: