Info Tech

Fonts, fonts, fonts

Well, I've just learnt more about fonts than I ever really wanted to.

The issue was that the Australian Standard for legibility on a computer screen specifies certain minimum heights, but "height" for a font can mean many different things. For example:

  • ascent (or cap height or H-height) = from the base line to the top of the highest flat-topped capital letter in the font (such as an 'H')
  • descent = from the base line to the bottom of a letter with a descender (such as a 'y')

EU antitrust finding against Intel

The EU's antitrust ruling against Intel is making lots of waves in the blogosphere at the moment.

Nigel Dessau from AMD has made a series of thoughtful posts on the issue.

Sane spreadsheets

A lovely little tutorial on ways to write understandable spreadsheets.

As someone who has been guilty of spreadsheet spaghetti code in the past, I should probably pay more attention to this. In particular, colour-coding inputs and outputs makes a lot of sense.

Google Forms

As everyone knows, Google develops or buys lots of different types of applications.

Even after a successful product is launched, Google is always tweaking and adding new features. Sometimes these features flop. But sometimes, a new idea which is so simple comes along that you wonder why everyone hasn't done it.

Web-based office suites get mixed reviews, let's face it. But Google, to its credit, is facing up to the challenge of creating a product that really takes advantage of being online. For example, you can now create a survey which saves its results to a Google Spreadsheet in literally 5 minutes.

The maturing of Information Technology

One of the signs of a maturing discipline is that change gets slower. I'm think that IT is reaching that point.

I mean, what can you do today with IT that you couldn't do three years ago? In December 2004, you were operating Windows XP, Firefox 1.0 and Office 2003.

Despite the release of successors to all of these software packages, the features available are still pretty much the same. Really, we've just seen new coats of paint and a few usability improvements. The Internet's still the Internet; word processing is still WYSIWYG; and operating systems are still pretty reliable.

Chronologically, I'd mark these as the major "tipping points" of IT in the last 25 years. These aren't necessarily the first time the concepts were invented, but they were the point at which they crossed into mainstream acceptance:

OS X Leopard wireless fix

Hmm. I actually thought I'd written this up a few weeks ago after fixing my annoying Leopard wireless issues. But perhaps not!

Anyhoo, here's how I solved my wireless connectivity problems on a MacBook Pro running Leopard:

(1) Make sure you have all the Mac updates (including the Login & Keychain update).

(2) Open your keychain and remove all entries relating to your wireless key setup.

(3) Start up in Safe Mode by holding the Shift key during startup.

(4) Once the computer has started in Safe Mode, simply restart again (without holding any keys).

MSI inspect and unpack

MSI files aren't just a complicated ZIP format -- they are also an installation tool and (apparently) a full-fledged SQL database.

So it's great to find MSI Unpacker, a tool that easily allows inspection of (a) what an MSI file would actually change about a system and (b) easily extract files from the MSI package.

FileMaker

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with FileMaker Pro. It certainly has a lower learning curve than a program like Access or using a full-blown relational database with SQL query commands etc.

While that ease of use often generates poorly-thought out databases, and I've had some nightmare experiences with FileMaker developers who can dink up a web-based system but don't really understand the logistics of deploying that to multiple sites over dial-up internet speeds (me? bitter? :) -- when I discovered that XML access has b

Test site availability from around the globe

Ever wanted to test whether a website is down everywhere, or if it's "just you"?

Then the Dotcom-Monitor [http://www.dotcom-monitor.com/task_hot_test.asp?id=1] is for you!

EDIT: For some bizarre reason, Google thinks that this link isn't "organic" enough and despite being a legit referral, has been flagged as spammy! The webmasters of Dotcom Monitor have requested that the link be removed. Hence the URL is now just in plain text, please copy and paste to access the site. Sorry for the inconvenience

Do you want to design an XML schema?

Then check out xFront, and particularly their article XML Schemas: Best Practices.

(UPDATE: Their Design Goals Questionnaire is also really useful.)

Practical advice from the xml-dev mailing group, so these people do it every day.

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