Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Clever "Page Not Found" Message

Saw this this morning and thought it was clever. Definitely a classy way to deal with an issue that drives people away from a site (personally, I went back once I realized it wasn't a more generic 404 message).

Speaking of websites - how long has the sidebar on LMOTD been pushed past the side of the page? It looks pretty awful right now and I'm worried about what caused it. I have, once before, been disappointed to see a Blogger code issue mess with my HTML on the site, but I've never seen them break a layout in this manner before. I'm also a little suspicious of my less code-savvy co-blogger, who had added a few features on the sidebar (some of which I'm removing now for the sake of keeping the site looking clean, others I intend to keep - sidenote, I've now gone back to only allowing LMOTD co-bloggers to have author privileges and not admin privileges. You can't be too careful). I'm hoping to fix the bug tonight. EDIT 7:19 PM EST: Turns out that this bug does not cause anything unusual in Firefox. Users of Chrome, IE8, and Opera aren't seeing it correctly. RSS feed is unaffected.
Nevermind about the apparent LMOTD issue, turns out that it was caused by a large graphic that caused issues on some sizes of monitor. I'm generally pretty good at leaving things open so that they can wrap wherever they will (CSS obsessions and Google's Browser Size need not apply), but a graphic left with dimensions larger than a 15" monitor will always be a graphic larger than a 15" monitor. It's fixed now and I guess I'll have to be more careful next time (that post was one of several recently that was clearly a bit rushed). The surprising thing is that no angry comments or e-mails came in about this one - usually if I do something wrong, I get called on it pretty quickly. I like to joke that that's how I know I'm famous - you know people are reading if there's enough people out there that someone will jump on you within a few hours if you get something wrong.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Well, I Guess We're Here Now

Following up yesterday's note about SparkFun's free day - the meeting was a non-issue. The SparkFun site was down for pretty much the entire time, and we had some 'net connectivity issues on our end as well (ensuring that even when the website was up, I still had a hard time getting any page to load). I guess I won't be making the jump to Arduino just yet (don't worry - I still love my NXT's and I'll keep using them - I just wanted to try out something new without the risk of being out $100+ if I couldn't get much done with it). A good recap of how free day went can be found at http://www.ubasics.com/sparkfun_freeday

I had a similar experience trying to get a Linux thumbdrive working on my Toshiba recently. Who the hell, in the '00's, thinks it's more appropriate to have a Floppy Disk Drive option on a BIOS than a USB thumbdrive option? Any sane person would assume (as I did) that that would be a good option for trying a new operating system, but apparently Toshiba thought otherwise (but thought the BIOS should account for FDD's, even though there ISN'T a floppy drive on the computer). I'm still putting off buying a new PC, but no one's making that easy for me.

In more exciting news, an 8880 Super Car (more descriptive links and photos can wait for another post) arrived at the house yesterday. I feel a great need to drop everything and build it (I was up until about 2 AM last night getting it started...)

On a more depressing LEGO-related note: the manager of the local LEGO store has apparently decided to start enforcing somewhat arbitrary rules of "family friendly" content on WITC displays. He's begun turning away spectacular models (and no, the one he turned down after it arrived for January was not unkosher in any way) and asking for photographs for pre-approval before anyone brings anything in. Way to turn what used to be a fun privilege into more of an obnoxious chore. Yes, it's the store manager's decision to make, but he clearly made the wrong decision here and I've never seen the company commit such an atrocious affront to the community before (and yes, I remember the grey/bley debacle). I had signed up to do a July display with fireworks in the background, but I'm not entirely sure that I'll follow through anymore - I have enough things I'm more excited about building for myself, and the last thing I want to do is work out a fantastic mosaic using tiny translucent parts only to be turned away for "endorsing explosives", or whatever other whim the manager has that day.

By the way, we were already getting the shaft on the WITC front. Most groups are allowed to use non-LEGO shelves to add height (say, a clear shelf to hold up a spaceship or display planes above a town) - but that's long been declared contraband at this location. I've also been told that minor discounts and payment have even been offered in some places to people contributing window displays. We, on the other hand, put in ridiculous amounts of effort to achieve heights on our models without using any non-LEGO parts, and are then "thanked" for it by these sorts of comments. Is it any wonder that there's trouble getting the fan community here excited about participating in events at the store? Heck, we can't even get our own group displays together 95% of the time. I'm becoming disillusioned with the whole process of group displays (just in time to plan LEGOPalooza next month!).

Enough of that, and the rest of the AFOL-community politics. I'm building myself an 8880, because I'm awesome (although not awesome enough to actually drive a car that nice...).

EDIT: The higher ups and LEGO Brand Retail have since done away with the Window Into The Community displays entirely. Which, given the mixed experiences with it and issues that have arisen in some stores, isn't entirely surprising.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Resolution Updates

Most of this falls under the category of "housekeeping", but here's what's new:

  • Blog layout: a "Stalk Me!" section has been added, featuring a few links on places you can, well, stalk me. Current locations include Last.fm (interactive radio and music chart social network), Twitter (overblown RSS-enabled status engine/social network), and flickr (image hosting site that's also - you guessed it - a social network). In case you haven't noticed the trend, I'm a sucker for open platforms that are RSS enabled and I'm not terribly perturbed by the social network fad.
  • Email catch-up: my main account is down to 50 e-mails, my spamblock account (which is practically a second regular account for me now) is fluctuating around 100 e-mails. My NCSU account was shut down suddenly during the Christmas break, and I never did finish back-up efforts started for it last summer. I wonder if they can still send me alumni e-mails.

    Another issue here is the high growth of social network spam. I'm now automatically dumping all variety of friend/contact/etc requests on networks I use in favor of evaluating them next time I'm logged in (the doubling - between in-service "inboxes" and my e-mail inboxes - did nothing more than create more work and problems with synching things up). Facebook remains unresolved, and Facebook requests that I don't intend to follow up on are now a full 20% of my main e-mail account's unresolved mail. I may have to bite the bullet and log in a second time yet, but I still have no intention of using that obnoxious closed service.
  • Interesting sidenote: Retr0bright. Retr0bright apparently can un-yellow ABS. If you've tried it, let me know your results. I'll just deal with the yellowing in the meantime.
  • Floppy Disks: My parents got wind of this resolution and took it up as well. They're now leaving me with their old disks (Dad can't be bothered to reuse/recycle them properly himself). I've begun research in the field of what to do with them next. Here are my findings thus far:
    • GreenDisk IT recycling can apparently recycle all sorts of things, for a fee. I'm not ruling it out, but I always feel silly paying money to give somebody something that's technically still useful (the lack of need for that size, decrease of drives available, and difficulty searching disks are my motivations for getting out of there). Interesting source for this suggestion: a webpage entitled Recycling More Obscure Materials.
    • ACT looks like it may be a charitable place to donate disks. Sadly, my experience with similar places requires me to do research to make sure this is fully legit and non-abusive, but I'm optimistic enough to list it here anyway. If you pursue it, let me know what you find out / how it goes.
    • Associated Content has an article on Uses for Old Floppy Disks. It has some interesting ideas, but none particularly inspire me.
    • Interested readers of this blog can let me know if they'd like some clean floppy disks. I have no idea what quantities are available, but I'm willing to hand some over in person or (if the quantity is great enough to justify the expense) mail some out.
    • "Key"s? I've become surprised recently by the popularity of "USB Keys", which are idiotically small contents for a USB thumbdrive. Sometimes they're nothing more than a graphic, and autorun tool, and a link to a website. Why do I mention this here? I could start using old floppies as business cards, using that same "key" concept. You can get a decent amount of pictures and web pages in 1.44 MB after all - why not give out a small portfolio of low-res .gif images and web pages, with links to get to things like this blog? Traditional contact information also fits easily on the label section of a 3.5" floppy disk, and the extra size makes them less likely to get lost. Yes, I know it's not a printed LEGO minifig with my phone number on it (some people really do use those), but it's something both clever and affordable. It'd be a fun in-joke for the other people maintaining floppy disk drives as well (or really anyone with a working older computer), and an interesting piece of kitsch for people who don't (hey look! A floppy disk business card! Can you believe it?). Of course, if they get thrown away by the people who receive them, then this whole exercise in not wasting anything has been moot.
More news later, perhaps. I'm looking to get more scheduled posts in at LMOTD soon, I haven't located my gift for my sister's birthday tomorrow yet, and I also still need to pick out what I want for the Sparkfun free day tomorrow as well (naturally, I have to be in a meeting at the time that starts - I may end up trying to get someone else to order some arduino goodies for me).