Minor irritations

My personal life has been in an upheaval for the past week. My son’s flu that won’t give up, a tragic event close to my daughter that’s left her grieving. Me feeling the pain they feel, but helpless to change anything. That’s not the minor irritation. That’s the major stuff.

The minor irritation is the rest of life. Sometimes everything seems trivial in the face of big events, doesn’t it?

For example, why the hell did the latest version of WordPress, a much touted major upgrade, deselect the http:// in the Insert Link dialog? Now it must be selected before a link can be pasted in. If you forget to do that, you end up with a link that starts out with http://http:// and resists being fixed when you finally notice it.

And why is the Insert button in a Drupal Insert Link dialog box on the opposite side at the bottom of the dialog box from the Insert button in a WordPress Insert Link dialog box?

That’s as irritating as the differing location of the Ctrl and Command keys that are needed for keyboard commands on either Windows or Mac.

What’s the deal with Dreamweaver CS3 on a Mac when it says it’s inserting CSS and JS files into a site root to support functions and styles for Spry widgets? It inserts links to the files in the document head, but the files don’t make it to the SpryAssets folder. When you try to get them there manually, Dreamweaver is likely to crash. That’s irritating.

Twitter. Why is it so irritating?

AIR apps begin making waves

Today it was announced as big news that an AIR program still in alpha state called Seesmic bought the very popular desktop Twitter application Twhirl. Yesterday Shelley contacted me with an invite for Aviary (which I’ll be writing about soon), a new  photo editing app using AIR. When Adobe made AIR available for Linux earlier this week it also made the news.

It might be time to put AIR into your “things to learn about” list.

Summary of eHow articles for February

Warholized What's down there?

It was cats and kids month in my personal life. In my writing life, here’s what I did at eHow in February. (The CSS attribute selector article appeared here first, in an easier to use format.)

Useful links for today

Google Search Tricks in TiKouka gives even more great search tricks for Google. Did you know about these useful search features?

MacHeist will sell you a bundle of 11 Mac software apps worth $368 for only $49. It’s good software: CSSEdit, Snap Z Pro, Cha-Ching and others. You can give 25% of that $49 to the charity of your choice. Hurry, the deal only lasts 10 more days. Nice going, MacHeist!

Digital Tools Help Users Save Energy from the New York Times is confirmation of something Bruce Sterling said at SWSWi years ago: until there’s a readout on everything telling us exactly how many particulates are in the air or how many pollutants are in the drinking water on a second by second basis, the status quo will not change. Hey, Bruce, the idea applies to energy use, too. ADDENDUM 1/16/08: Making Fuel Consumption Visible—yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

A Look at SynthaSite

The final free web page building tool I know about is SynthaSite. This will end the series about free online web building tools that include Weebly, SiteKreator, and Webnode.

I’ve been writing corresponding how-to articles about each of these tools for eHow. If you are interested in exploring these sites from a personal use prospective and want to see screen shots and step by step instructions, visit my eHow page.

To summarize the free online tools, I found Weebly to be the easiest and most beginner friendly. Weebly has a huge array of widgets to add Google maps, RSS feeds, Flickr images and other content to a page. I found the site for today, SynthaSite (still in Beta), to also be very easy for a beginner. But SynthaSite has some features that would appeal to someone with a bit of knowledge of both HTML and CSS. Therefore, it was my favorite among the four. None are perfect and none come close to achieving results anything like you would expect from a professional designer and developer.

SynthaSite is free for everything. It uses a drag and drop interface. You drag text areas, images, and columns into a page. There are many page designs to choose from. The pages are posted free with a URL leading to a subdomain at synthasite.com. Or you can choose to download the pages and publish them elsewhere.

Each thing you add as a widget to a page opens up a Properties panel where you can do some CSS if you like. Right now it’s only setting top, right, bottom and left margins for text and images. Although I think the Properties panel should offer a way to add alt text to an image, it does not. To be fair, none of the other sites I tested let you add alt text either. But SynthaSite’s more sophisticated options with its Properties panel would work well for this, and seems like a logical addition to the interface. SynthaSite has an HTML widget that will accept any HTML (and inline style rules) you might want to add that way.

Since I went ahead and published a demo test site, I was able to do some testing. SynthaSite did much better on HTML and CSS validation tests than the other sites tested in this series.

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Useful links roundup

Web Worker Daily has a great set of links to online browser testing services. They list seven, some of them free, such as IE NetRenderer, which will show your page in IE 5.5, 6, or 7.

Flocking to the pictures, in TiKouka, gives an excellent overview of what the social media browser Flock is all about. If you are a big user of social media, Flock sounds like a good app to investigate and perhaps use.

Online Survival Guide: 9 Tips for Dealing with Idiots on the Internet provides some good advice from Internet Duct Tape. Don’t let yourself get disemvoweled.

The Kimberly Blessing Interview by Christopher Schmitt is worth a read. Blessing started as an Interactive Developer for AOL. She currently works for PayPal as the manager of their Web Development Platform Team. Kimberly authored the “The Circle of Standards” chapter for the book, Adapting to Web Standards. She’s also a co-leader of the Web Standards Project. The conversation ranges from web standards, to coping with SXSWi when you’re an introvert, to fan sites. (This last was of interest to me, since I’ve been running a fan site for years, but mine is a definite Web 1.0 site.)

A Look at SiteKreator

I’m on a streak, testing out all the free online web page building tools. The lastest is SiteKreator.

My overall impression of SiteKreator is that the free version is very limited when compared with Webnode and Weebly. To get services you may want you have to pay anywhere from $20 to $40 a month. For that kind of money, you’d be better off doing it the old fashioned, pre-Web 2.0 way by creating the site from scratch.

SiteKreator is a bit different in approach from the others. It isn’t drag and drop. It uses tiny (tiny!) icons with drop down menus. The M icon lets you add menu items (and therefore, new pages). The A icon lets you add areas that may contain text, images, or files. When you have an area on a page, you use a T icon to edit or add to the area. The control panel is revealed by clicking a P icon. Page properties and your account info are under the P icon.

Although I played around with it quite a while, I didn’t actually go ahead and activate the account. (You must respond to an email to activate.) Therefore, I cannot give you any information about how well the page performed in the browser when published and whether it could pass any validation tests. Based on a few runs through the validator with the Sample pages they provide, I’m fairly safe in saying that they would not perform well. Realistically, however, someone wanting a free tool with a URL coming from free hosting probably doesn’t care about HTML purity or accessibility.

Several days ago I saw a blog post that said SiteKreator was a Dreamweaver killer. There is no danger of that.

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