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HTMLfixIT Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category




Monday, June 25th, 2007 by Don

Someone recently pointed out a screenshot service that is available for free called IE NetRenderer. My experience has shown over time that most of these services become overwhelmed and eventually convert to paid services or disappear. (more…)

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Friday, June 15th, 2007 by Franki

If I’ve come across a free tool online lately that I wish I’d written myself, it is this one. I was called upon recently to put a video online and embedded in a web page for a client so they could advertise it, and I needed to get it done ASAP. I was about to start hand writing code when I thought, ‘no I’ll give Google a chance first’ which I find myself doing allot nowadays. So anyway, I did a bit of searching and found this extremely well thought out and implemented online tool.

I’m still annoyed that I didn’t do this myself as I imagine it would be very popular and not that hard to knock together. The tool is called Embedded Media HTML Generator and it’s on the website of the University of California. You simply choose the format of the video you want to embed (from Flash, Quicktime, Real Media or Windows Media Video), you fill out the form detailing file names and locations as well as any optional settings and hit submit. You will then be presented with a heap of HTML code that can be inserted directly into your web page. Simple, easy and elegant. The only options they don’t provide are for choosing XHTML transitional or strict, but that’s easy enough to do by hand.

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Wednesday, June 13th, 2007 by Franki

In a normal week, I probably try somewhere between 5 and 10 different programs for one reason or another. Once of the programs I tried this week is Eraser, mostly because it is GPL (Open Source Software) and is totally free. Recently I was called upon to recover sales data from a ex staff members laptop as said staff member decided that the company in question really didn’t need their sales data and deleted the lot (along with about 2500 emails) before returning the laptop.

What led me to Eraser, was the ease with which I recovered all the data. Sure it was time consuming, but in one evening, I’d recovered nearly all the data, and all the deleted emails from Thunderbird. (I’d have gotten all the data, but the laptop had been used for a couple of days and rebooted about a dozen times, so some of it had been overwritten).

Anyway, onto the theory. When data is deleted and emptied from the recycle bin, it isn’t really deleted at all, only its index is removed, the data itself is not changed. Think of it like a map book, the pages of maps themselves are the data and the index is the list of what data is in what place. Removing an entry from the index doesn’t remove the map, you just can’t find it anymore. Same with deleted data. The big difference is that once an area is cleaned from the index of a hard drive, the area in question is allocated as free space meaning it can be over written the next time some free space is need. As long as the data hasn’t been overwritten, it is usually recoverable. Anyway, the ease with which the data was recovered made me think about ways of making it harder, cheap ways at that. 30 seconds of Googling later and I was looking at Eraser. As a test, I put a heap of files between 20 and 700 mb onto a 120 gig hard drive. Then I completely deleted the lot and used Freeundelete (another great little free program) to recover the lot. I was not using this drive as my main system drive and had not added any new data so the recovery was 100% successful. Following that, I deleted the lot again, and ran Eraser on that drive to delete (overwrite) the deleted files and tried to recover them again. this time I was completely unsuccessful, I got nothing usable from the recovery at all. That is to say that Eraser did exactly that it was written for, it made recovering the data next to impossible. It is possible that some experts using much lower level tools could recover small parts of the deleted data, but for all intents and purposes, it’s gone for good.

Eraser is surprisingly easy to use for an OSS program. It works in a schedule type arrangement where you create tasks and then “run” them. So I created a new task, (in this case to erase all free space on drive D), then I right clicked on the task and selected run and off it went. About 4.5 hours later it told me my drives free space was clean. This probably wouldn’t be the NSA’s chosen program for covering their tacks, but for the vast majority, it’s more than enough (wouldn’t hurt to defrag the drive afterwards either).
It never hurts to cover your tracks, even if you are not doing anything questionable, if you don’t like the idea of someone going though your machine, make it harder. Besides, the price of Eraser is right (free), and it takes next to no space or time to use so why not? I give it at 9 out of 10 for doing perfectly, exactly what it is supposed to and nothing more. Small, fast and tidy.

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Monday, June 11th, 2007 by Don

I have been trying to explain to someone the concept of designing with grids and using column widths that are friendly to the human eye. If you make your columns too wide, the eye cannot scan back to the left and keep it’s horizontal point of reference. I happened onto a nice little utility that will help you design column widths today. I also noticed that he had a great little idea on his comment form … a click off that you aren’t sending spam. Of course the spam bots will miss that and thus be relegated to spam. Good thinking x 2.

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Wednesday, April 4th, 2007 by Don

This is an interesting article suggesting that many successful websites work because of ease of use even though they are ugly. The article comes with some prime examples like Craig’s List. I have to agree, many of the sites where I have done repeat business are simple, and well, not all that over-designed or pretty. They lack margin shadows, fluid design, all the things people talk about when offering up design services.

Interesting stuff to think about — and it infinitely increases my job opportunities. I can do pretty — but I may be better at ugly! I do understand making things work. It’s one of my specialties and often people hire me to do just that, make it work. I repair their OS Commerce Shopping Cart, or fix a navigation bar, or make the WordPress Install start working again. I enjoy it and they enjoy it, usually enough to pay me if it isn’t a simple fix. One client recently told me I’m like duct tape in her tool kit. I consider that a compliment. Many feel that duct tape is mans’ best friend, but it isn’t pretty …

Changing topics, sort of, Matt Jordan writes a funny article on being a freelance web designer. Of course that isn’t so much a change because I was just talking about doing freelance work in the paragraph above. I do not hire myself out because I’m tired of the boss, I do it because to me fixing other peoples’ web problems is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. There is joy in seeing it all fit together. Unlike him, I enjoy chatting at some odd hour with a client or responding in a short period of time to an email that was sent overnight with the thought it might not be seen for hours. But it has never consumed me either, what he cautions against, because I control how much to take and when.

So I better get back to doing something ugly but functional for someone. After all, their web page is broken and I’m the one going to fix it.

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Sunday, April 1st, 2007 by Don

A web designer who regularly subcontracts me to prepare various elements for pages they are working on hired me to do a Son of Suckerfish Drop Down Menu. The requested layout was a bit more complex than even the prettied drop down menu version on the site. My requested task involved the use of a background image, borders around the drop downs, and images that formed dividers between each main menu item to essentially make them look like buttons.

As is usually the case with this designer, they requested that my fix work in Firefox, Internet Explorer 6.x and Internet Explorer 7.x. So I went about drafting the proper xhtml and css to create the desired look and functionality. I tested it in each of these browsers and all went as planned. (more…)

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Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 by Don

Now this is cool! Earl Boykins is 5′ 5″ tall and weighs a mere 133 pounds, and yet he plays big in the NBA. I was checking out his site to see how big he was and come across his widget. Pretty cool thing to offer to your fans.

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