Tuesday
Jun102003

Milwaukee: Brats, Beer, Harleys and Wi-Fi Hotspots

How interesting! I just came across a little tidbit in our local Journal-Sentinel newspaper that the City of Milwaukee is planning to test out hosting two free Wi-Fi hotspots in two popular downtown parks. A great quote from the article:

"If you want to attract attention, and you want to be looked at by outsiders as a hip, happening place, then you need to put in some city-backed Wi-Fi,"

Pretty cool that the City of Milwaukee is applying technology access to help increase the many uses of the parks, especially by downtown workers who want to do a little surfing at lunchtime. However, there is some question as to leaving the networks up come the winter snows and cold. Further, this is only a test-run that lasts but a year. Finally, the speeds are limited to 128k, but still, for email or basic surfing that's pretty decent and limiting bandwidth is probably a wise move on the part of the City.

Looks like I'll have to do a little lunch run with the Powerbook one of these nice, warm summer days. :-)

If it works well, there's even a possibility that other Milwaukee County Parks will get Wi-Fi hotspots. Now that would be interesting. In case you didn't know, Milwaukee has an excellent county park system, established back in the 1940s and 50s. I'm always so grateful for forward thinking city planners who notched out many parks right in the city. Now, even though Milwaukee is a bustling city, it's still just only a few minutes from anywhere to a neighborhood park. I think that's something to be proud of as a Milwaukeean.

Note: If you've never heard of a Brat or Bratwurst, it's a sausage made with finely chopped, seasoned fresh pork. It is a mildly seasoned sausage, in which a person can taste more of a pork flavor. (courtesy of Johnsonville a popular Wisconsin Bratwurst maker).

Monday
Jun092003

Designing With Web Standards

DWWSThis past week I got a copy of Jeffery Zeldman's excellent book on web design, called Designing With Web Standards. This weekend, I dove heavily into the book (I'm about halfway through) and have been thoroughly enjoying the read. In fact, it's been a while since I've laughed out loud while reading a technical manual... wait come to think of it, I've never laughed while reading a technical manual!

Okay, so why did I like the book? Well, first, it's aimed right at me, a graphic and web designer, who has labored to create good looking websites for the wide array of web browsers. Many of these browsers were foisted on the public over the past few years: namely, all 3.0 browsers and in particular, Netscape 4.

I like that this book offers the individual web designer (me) a realistic way to ditch the old ways of working with tables and other hacks to achieve a nice looking design. Further, it offers an alternative approach of standards-based design by providing practical info on ways to actually build sites using XHTML 1.0 (a new, XML-based version of the HTML spec) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) so that the same web page will appear similarly in all browsers.

Now, about the book itself...

Zeldman has a great writing style, which combines deep knowledge of his topic (XHTML, CSS and web standards) and humorous shots at other "usability gurus" like Jakob Nielsen and the companies who've been creating web design "solutions" like Microsoft FrontPage.

The book describes how concerned web designers established a group called the Web Standards Project, bugged the heck out of Netscape and Microsoft to actually create web browsers that would follow the very web standards they helped establish.

The idea was simple -- web designers should need to build only one page that would render similarly in every browser, whether IE, Netscape, a Palm, Pocket PC or mobile phones browser. The gamble to pressure these firms actually paid off, resulting in 5.0 browsers from Microsoft and Netscape (and other firms) displaying web standard specs consistently enough that web designers can actually design a page once, and have it appear pretty decently in all modern browsers.

Designing With Web Standards also shares practical information. In particular, the book offers an easy to read, how-to guide on building sites using standards like XHTML and CSS, rather than common table hacks and other time consuming and bandwidth hogging tricks of the average web designer.

The biggest advantage of this new approach is that the structure of your content gets separated from the markup of that same content. Why is this significant? well, first, it allows all browsers to read the content itself because tags to change the color or font size are not getting in the way of the browser. Further, keeping content separated can make the file size significantly smaller and quicker to load. Lastly, separating markup (or CSS stylesheets) lets the designer make global changes to an entire site with a simple change of the stylesheet item, rather than laboriously editing Every. Single. Page.

So, if you're a long time web designer, or a graphic designer just getting into web design, get this book. If involved in creating web pages in any shape or form, get this book. It presents an incredibly logical and sensible way of working that will make your web designing life much easier now and in the long run.

As for me, well, once I've completed the book I'll be coding with web standards. I might even start before I'm done with the book. We'll see. Changes will most likely start with this weblog page and then extend to all of the other web design I do, because it just makes sense to build to web standards. It's hard to argue with that.

Saturday
Jun072003

Clie Surgery: Successful!

Happy CliéAnd there was much rejoicing.

As you may recall from my May 30th weblog post, Killing My Clié, that I'd managed to do some serious damage to my beloved Sony Clié N610.

Well, I have some very, very good news: Dr. Dan Royea, Palm OS Hardware Wizard Extraordinaire has shown his quality! He has successfully merged my old Clié N610's screen with the working guts of Craig Froehle's wife's Clié N610 (which had a busted screen). Dr. Dan emailed me this morning with the good news, from the recovery ward at St. Royea's Hospital for Wayward Handhelds.

There are however, two very minor caveats:

1. The Windex spot of residue will remain under the touch screen, but this should be no problem as it doesn't effect the touch screen's operation. In fact, this little spot should act as a good reminder to not to mess around with miniature hardware and of Dan's wizardry.

2. I'll lose my 16MB RAM upgrade, performed late last year by STNE Corp. I can certainly live with 8MB for now, but that extra 8MB will be missed. It'll be something to look forward to in the next handheld, whenever that comes. Still this is a very minor point.

So, this is very good news!! The operation will save money, important now that we're feeding a very hungry little 7 month old boy. My eternal gratitude goes to Dan Royea for his work. I know he'll be pleased knowing another of his 'patients' will live happily ever after. :-)

Wednesday
Jun042003

Palm + Handspring = PalmSpring?

I heard the news today, oh boy...

At Brighthand, c|net news.com, InfoSync World, and at The Register. As always, there's excellent commentary on the announced merger from Craig Froehle at GearBits too.

What an interesting turn. Hawkins and Dubinsky head back to Palm. My gut impression: this is a good move. Might be just what both companies needed about now.

More commentary after I've brewed on this for a while...

Update
Well, after some thought and a little discussion with fellow Palm users here's a little commentary on the proposed Palm-Handspring merger:

I think it's a good thing in general, from the point of view that it's better to have Palm and Handspring merge than to see Handspring go under. I believe Handspring is in a tough spot financially and seems to be "betting the farm" more or less on their Treo line.

Handhelds became a commodity, so they've moved away from that space and into the more lucrative and more difficult path of communicators. The Treo is a fine machine with great PDA/Phone integration, but with competitors like Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Kyocera and Microsoft, they do have some serious competition.

I think the merger of Palm and Handspring makes them a more well-rounded company, better able to deal with both Sony and Microsoft. The coming new name is probably something they will wish wasn't part of the deal. I'd bet the Palm name and image around the world is worth quite alot.

The Register story suggests that the deal is a Handspring bail-out effort. Handspring does have to pay down a big lease on a building, signed back in the Internet boom days. The Palm deal will help with this for sure.

The worst part of the deal will be the layoffs. It'll be too bad that some overlap of staff will have to be trimmed.

Might have more tomorrow... or maybe not. I'm sure this deal has been analyzed to death by now. :-)

Tuesday
Jun032003

In Praise of Shaun McGill

I've long been a fan of Shaun McGill's excellent CliePlanet website... so I thought it was high time to make a mention here on my own weblog, praising all of Shaun's hard work and dedication to the Palm community.

I visit the CliePlanet site at least daily, and without fail I always come away with a great Palm app or bit of PDA news. Somehow, Shaun manages to out-post Palm Infocenter on the average day with many very interesting Palm-oriented tidbits. Even more amazingly, Shaun maintains a full-time day job and a growing family!

Because I'm a big fan of CliePlanet, I was naturally interested in a new site Shaun has begun called PDAThoughts. This is more of Shaun's personal weblog, which he updates periodically with mainly PDA and a few non-PDA related posts.

Again, Shaun manages to post very interesting articles on PDAThoughts, like his latest post about a harrowing experience on eBay with an international buyer. Other posts have covered Shaun's quirky habit of saving useless information on his handheld and commentary on recently announced Clié models from Sony he humorously calls 'Phony Cliés.

So, if you're looking for high-quality content that's frequently updated, look no further than the great stuff Shaun McGill has been cranking out at CliéPlanet and now at PDAThoughts too.

Keep up the brilliant work Shaun! :-)