Internet woes fixed – thank you OpenDNS!

Argh.  For a couple of days now I’ve been unable to connect to Psyked from my home internet connection, for some inexplicable reason.  I won’t claim to understand any of it, but it seemed like the whole internet worked except my domain.  I could even ping other websites on the same shared server, and access Psyked through a horribly slow open proxy server, but direct connection was a no-no.

Well, a bit of Googling into traceroutes, pings, hostnames and general techie mumbo-jumbo led me to reconfigure my home networks’ DNS servers away from Virgin broadband and onto OpenDNS. Restart the router and boom! we’re back online.

There’s a lot written about a lot of things (namely problems with Virgin broadband, and some contention over the OpenDNS project).  Here’s a few links I picked up, if you’re interested;

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The Terminator: Fiction?

Surfing BBCi’s interactive tv services, I couldn’t help take notice of one ominous sounding news report – “Skynet military launch postponed” – yee gads!
Skynet
?!

It gets better with this quote;

Software on the launch vehicle did not behave normally during a test sequence.

Did not behave normally (!) Suddenly I feel less worried about America’s Cyber warfare division (due to become active on October 1st) and more worried about our own military systems. I’ve always thought that the best way to make people believe reality is fiction was to make a movie about it (nobody believes movies are real, right?) and here we are, tempting fate. Uh oh.

See the full BBCi report here.

Facebook security?!

Ah Facebook. As a rule of thumb you shouldn’t really add any more personal information than’s nessessary to a website – but people tend to just forget that, especially on social networking sites. And noone really reads the legal & privacy notices – because they’re about as flexible as the EULA on your videogames, just explain in very careful words just how much they are allowing themselves to abuse your trust.

Just how safe is your data on Facebook then? When you start out, there’s a lot of inital restriction using the website, having to have ‘friends’ or ‘groups’. The most any stranger can see is a small thumbnail, your name and perhaps a few groups or your country. Think that’s safe enough? Wait until you’ve listened to a bit of scaremongering about the third-party applications…

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A different approach to tagging?

A very different approach to tagging? Well, comments are closed over on that site, so I thought I’d voice my opinions here. That is after all, what I have this site for. In his post, Ryan is sharing his thoughts on the approach to tagging on Ask E. T., where Edward Tufte has the tagging system displays links to related posts, based on the tags applied to the active post.

The comments thread (on Ryans’ post) may be full of critisim about the positioning of the links (on Edward Tuftes’ site) – something which I also take issue with – but the idea seems pretty solid. Of course, if you’re going to have related posts, it makes sense to draw them from the tagging system. Continue Reading…

BETT 2008

Well, I’m off to the BETT show on the 9th (tomorrow)  I forget what BETT stands for, but it’s an IT exhibition for schools / educational markets.  Dynamic Learning is being shown off there – as well as being shortlisted for an award – and there’s probably going to be a lot of SCORM / LMS related products on display so it should be an interesting one.

Although I suspect not quite interesting enough to warrent a followup post.

Identifying link targets with CSS

So, you have links that open in new windows, and links that open in parent windows. Inconsistant behaviour is the primary usability nightmare, and your standard web browser doesn’t give you any feedback on just what is going to happen once you click that link. Popups galore? or damn-I-was-reading-that syndrome? If only there was some visual clue we could give about those pesky link behaviours.

Well, this isn’t something I’ve seen anyone do yet, but technically it should be possible. What we should be able to do is transport the same techniques we use for detecting file types – ie. the CSS 2.1 attribute selectors – and link them to the target attribute. Thankfully, this should be a pretty short bit of code, as there’s only really four target options that anyone uses anyway. These would be ‘_blank’, ‘_self’, ‘_top’ or ‘_parent’. So, working on our existing knowledge of detecting link file-types, we simply add the code;

a[target='_blank']

… and we should now be able to automatically attach icons to those links that target a new browser window. (_parent, _self, and _top nearly always open links in exactly the same window) Links to other websites already have a standard icon – pretty much set by wikipedia – but it’s not often that target-based links are seen, so there’s not much of a standard. Or is there?

Sitepoint has a short article on the problem of link targets – ‘Beware of Opening Links in a New Window‘ and also has a pretty simple icon to use for new windows. Perfect! Just like internal links don’t have an icon, and external ones do, so only links that open a new browser window should need this icon. Save the icon to your webserver, add your new CSS, and you’re away.

Pimp My PC – Improving the look, feel and general efficiency

pimpmypc.pngFrom time to time it’s fun to give your computer an overhaul. Here’s a few simple, and not-so-simple ways rejuvinate your humdrum old Windows machine. And I’m assuming that we’re using Windows XP here – not ole’ Vista.

 

#1 A New theme!

You mightn’t like Vista, but I challenge you to say that the glassy Vista styles aren’t a million times nicer than the playdough style default XP ones. Microsoft it seems, missed a potential killer market by locking down the Windows themes to only Microsoft-certified ones. (Probably because they knew of hundreds of critical security flaws.)
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Missapplication of Terminology

or, When is your CMS not a CMS?

Computer-orientated terminology tends to get thrown around like buzzwords, it seems. Not only by people who don’t really know what they’re talking about – but also by those that should. And, like buzzwords, they convey an idea – not a technical specification. If you haven’t heard of a CMS or a CDP however, you might be left in the dark.

but Buzzwords are cool – they’re easy and indeterminate.

Sure, saying ‘CMS’ or ‘Content Management System’ is easier than describing what you mean all the time – but suppose both parties have completely different ideas of what to expect from a ‘Content Management System’. After all, what does your ‘Content Management System’ do? Does it manage your content for you – or help you manage your content? Does it even do that? Is it just a facilitator for creating content? Drawing up lengthy technical specifications may help, but throw a client-who-uses-misunderstood-buzzwords into the mix and you’re in for a bumpy ride. Chances are you’ll both assume different functionality. Continue Reading…