Apr 10

Do not underestimate the need for Multi-Browser testing

No matter what the trending statistics tell, people do use alternative browsers. If something totally doesn’t work, these users are going to complain about it and rightfully so.

test all of these

Technical (javascript) lesson learned: do not use setTimeout() for making an external script call such as document.write(); If the result happens to contain an iframe tag, all your caller pages will be overwritten. Only seems to affect Opera and to some degree IE. Safari, Chrome and Firefox are immune (and as it happens, the three browsers I originally tested against).

Apr 10

A Windows-centric Migration Path to a new Solid State Drive

As a fan of Windows 7, and of new hardware technology in general, I took the train to SSD-land some two months ago.  Presented here is some of what I learned whilst accomplishing the migration. The specifics apply to Windows 7 based PCs, but the concepts could be adapted for other OSs.

Do you need to read all this?  You may need to completely reinstall Windows to take full advantage of the SSD. For instance, if you installed Windows 7 using any SATA mode (as set in your PC’s BIOS) other than AHCI, you will probably need to reinstall, though this workaround may work for you.

Not migrating to an Intel SSD? Rumor has it this SATA mode (AHCI) is not necessarily required. OCZ drives may function normally under IDE mode.

Regardless, I recommend that you read on, SSD adopting reader, for tips and insight in the great migration to a speedier computing experience.

Continue reading →

Mar 10

What the FEFF?

Since I’ve been thinking I ought to write about my work more often, and inspired by the strangeness of this incident, here goes.

Visual of the Culprit

I’d been trying to debug how a few ?s came to be in an ad banner tag submission. I’d dug into change logs and other points where we log transactions to no avail. Since we’d never seen anything like it before, I’d basically decided I’d spent enough time on it and was about to resort to a “it was caused by network ghosts” type explanation. I figured the ?s came from some erroneous network transmission.

On our system, there was nothing strange in the tag field whatsoever. On the adserver though, there appeared some question marks, looking like this:

???<iframe src=”http://view.atdmt.com/M0N/…” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ topmargin=”0″ leftmargin=”0″ allowtransparency=”true” width=”500″ height=”250″><script language=”JavaScript” type=”text/java …

Then, though when I don’t really know, it hit me. I should view that offending code in a more verbose setting, don x-ray specs if you will – my first choice was VI. Lo & behold, the offending characters appeared before my eyes.

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Jan 10

Considering the usefulness of computer lights

Are computer hardware activity indicators (in the form of flashing LEDs) an antiquated level of abstraction? Notifying the user ought to be left up to the software layer, i.e. the OS.  It is the best position to relay relevant information as directed by the level of user knowledge and interest.

Modern Apple computers got rid of nearly all the external LEDs.  But they didn’t go far enough for all users, as I have oft missed the flashy hardware-is-busy indicators.  Especially when the system is loaded-down and unresponsive; wtf’s going on? Hard disk activity lights are fairly good for this; oh, it’s caching to disk-hell.  MacBook’s have none and that swirling beach ball [of death] definitely doesn’t cut it.

IBM/Lenovo machines, namely the ThinkPad line, excel at these, possibly to the point of excess.  On my X200, there are sleep, A/C, power-on, battery, hard drive, caps lock, num lock, WAN, bluetooth, wireless, SD card, and ethernet LEDs.  They can be a bit distracting.  But my main quip is that even with all the lights, there’s much to be desired in terms of system-to-user info transfer.  As a computer hardware aficionado, I need to know what my system is doing.

many green lights

many green lights

Something in the system tray would serve just as well as all these LEDs; I don’t always want to see them.  Process Explorer, for Windows, is the best I know of.  It lives in the sys-tray and is an indicator light, of sorts, for processor/system load.  That little app’s feed back in tandem with the hardware lights provides a quick overview of my machine.  process_explorer
(For Linux, top and system-monitor serve nicely.)

If the little chart isn’t peaking and the hard drive light is flashing a bunch, the bottleneck is in the I/O layer, and vice versa.  While this is a rather simple generalization, it usually serves well enough to answer the wtf’s.

All things considered I rather have em than not. Also, the blinky lights provide some nostalgic value, like being on the bridge in the enterprise. Nostalgia sorta explains why that ridiculous *bong* Mac start up sound still lives on.