February, 2002

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Photo pop-ups how-to

Thursday, February 28th, 2002

I’ve gotten a couple E-mails from visitors asking me how I do the photo pop-ups in the (incomplete) Photos section. Here’s a short explanation; maybe I’ll write up a tutorial later if there’s enough demand.

The pop-up photo relies on CSS2 positioning. Look carefully at photos.css. You’ll notice the full-size photo is a heavily-styled <span> inside the <a> that contains the thumbnail. The <span> changes style when you float the mouse over the <a>, by using the CSS2 declaration “a:hover span“. When not hovered over, the <span> tag has the CSS attribute “display: none” so it’s invisible. When hovered over, the span has attribute “display: block” so it’s displayed. Voilà!

Furthermore, I use the thumbnail as the original image inside the <span>, and then use Javascript to replace the thumbnail with the full-resolution image when the mouse hovers over the thumbnail. This is so the browser doesn’t load all the full-resolution images when the page loads. It also results in a neat “progressive download” effect when you first download the image over a slower network connection.

The CSS2 “popup” feature works perfectly with Internet Explorer 5.x and 6.x, works okay (occasional refresh glitches) with Netscape 6, and not at all (no popup) with Opera–which is why it’s important that the thumbnail is a shortcut to the full-res image.

New sidebar items

Thursday, February 28th, 2002

In an effort to beef up the rather empty-looking sidebar on the left-hand side of this page, I’ve added a few sidebar sections: “Books I’m Reading”, “Music I’m Listening To”, “TV I’m Watching”, “Movies I’ve Seen”, “Games I’m Playing”. These represent a sampling of some of my current activities and interests. I’m also thinking about adding a section entitled “Latest-Greatest Gadget” to showcase my latest tech-toy…

The links for books and music are to product pages at Amazon.com, mainly because I find they have generally well-rounded information on books and music albums. Yes, these are “associate” links (i.e. if you buy stuff through these links I get some trivial amount of compensation) but my only true motivation for using Amazon.com’s Associate feature is that it allows me to generate a product link URL that I know will work.

The links for TV shows and video games are to the main websites of those shows and games; I may change the game links to point to a third-party site like GameSpot.

The movie links are to the movies’ entries in the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), the best all-around reference for movie information.

Zany website of the day

Tuesday, February 26th, 2002

WhoWouldBuyThat.com, a daily compendium of funny and/or bizarre items seen on online auctions.

I suck at video games

Tuesday, February 26th, 2002

Been playing Cel Damage and Genma Onimusha on my Xbox. I suck at both games. In fact, I suck at pretty much all games. Not that I can’t play them, I just take a really, really long time to become any good at them…

Another trip down Memory Lane: games that I’ve actually finished (that I can remember), in rough chronological order:

  • Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (In Several Wrong Places)
  • King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human
  • Space Quest 2: Vohaul’s Revenge
  • Pool of Radiance
  • Curse of the Azure Bonds
  • Raptor: Call of the Shadows
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
  • Doom
  • Phantasmagoria
  • Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier
  • Quake II
  • Quake III Arena
  • Soldier of Fortune
  • Halo
  • Max Payne

Also currently working on Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee and Project Gotham Racing on the Xbox, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein on my PC. So little time, so many games…

Watched the closing ceremonies

Monday, February 25th, 2002

Nostalgia galore… KISS, Bon Jovi (admittedly Donnie & Marie and Earth Wind & Fire are from before my time). And was that a bald spot on Kurt Browning? Gosh I feel old.


Sunday, February 24th, 2002

Canada wins gold in men’s hockey!!!

I “redecorated” the office of a co-worker who’s been (good-naturedly of course) telling one too many Canadian (and curling) jokes:

[Vlad's office, redecorated]

Still under construction…

Sunday, February 24th, 2002

Just a small reminder to visitors that this site isn’t fully up yet. Specifically I haven’t finished sorting and annotating photos, the “Q & A” and “Links” sections haven’t been much fleshed out yet, and other sections are still entirely unavailable. Bear with me—I’m working as fast as I can! :-)

My first Perl app

Sunday, February 24th, 2002

One of the nice things about GreyMatter is that because it runs locally and it’s written in Perl, it’s pretty easy to customize and extend. Which is what I’ve done: I changed the format of the archive filenames so they would sort in a more logical order, and I wrote a script to generate my own archive table of contents by directly processing GreyMatter’s data files. The results can be seen in the Archives section: the archive table of contents lists not only the monthly archive files, but also the entries within.

I really need to learn Perl

Saturday, February 23rd, 2002

It’s hard to believe I’ve managed to do web pages, CGI scripting, and Unix programming for almost eight years and gotten away without learning Perl. Sure, I’ve edited existing Perl scripts here and there (after you learn enough computer languages, you develop the ability to read and understand most programming languages without any prior knowledge) but I’ve not yet actually sat down and written any scripts from scratch. Which is kind of strange because Perl has all kinds of features that I love to use elsewhere—for example, regular expressions. Well, that just won’t do anymore; I need a script to extend GreyMatter’s archive listings, so I’m off to learn Perl.

Live with GreyMatter

Saturday, February 23rd, 2002

Been working on setting up GreyMatter. GM seems to have a bug where the HTML character entity “&lt;” in an entry is converted to “<” (and similarly for “&gt;”). The entity is used to display a less-than sign since that character is normally used to designate HTML tags. Special characters are specified the same way; for example, “&acirc;” (meaning “letter ‘a’ + circumflex accent”) will display the character “â”. Anyway, it seems I can work around the aforementioned bug by using “&#60;” and “&#62;” instead, so it’s not a showstopper. Other than that, GM seems to be working pretty well. It has some highly flexible archival and search features that I haven’t yet begun to tap.