Random stuff I found out from redoing this blog’s layout

A few random things I learnt while I pretty much gutted the entire CSS file and redid this blog’s layout from scratch:

  • Drupal supports subthemes and I have absolutely no idea how to use them.

  • The html.tpl.php file controls how HTML is emitted.

  • If you centre an element using margin-left: auto and margin-right: auto, adding padding will not produce any effect.

  • It is supposedly possible to insert Javascript by modifying the .info file in the theme directory, but this does not seem to work.

  • The .focusin, .focusout, and .on methods did not exist in very old versions of jQuery.

  • If you want to hide a menu at the bottom of the screen, make sure to test whether the hiding and unhiding work with keyboard navigation (plain tabbing and shift-tabbing). There are a number of unexpected points to note in order for unhiding to work correctly:

    • Nothing will trigger the hover event when using keyboard navigation, so don’t put, for example, important things like the menu’s background colour into the hover trigger.

    • Contrary to what you might expect, keyboard navigation will not trigger a CSS focus event. So putting :focus rules into your CSS won’t do a thing.

    • Hiding through absolute positioning is better than setting display to none. Otherwise, when the focusin handler fires, unhiding might not work correctly.

    • Inserting a dummy A element (e.g., with a URL of javascript:true) is better than just setting tabindex to 0 on an ordinarily inert element.

    When this isn’t done right very weird things can happen. For example, you can end up with menus that never unhide when you use keyboard navigation, or you can end up with menus that will pop up but with live links in the menu that the tab key will just skip right over.

Should PDF be killed too? (second thoughts on @NellChitty’s (rhetorical?) question)

Yesterday, Vitamin T retweeted an article on Web Designer Depot claiming Flash is dead (in Chrome), and we really mean it this time.”

The article is surprisingly misinformed. (For one, Linux users will not “rejoice” because finally throwing out a piece of garbage that has been gathering dust in the attic isn’t cause for rejoicing – Flash is not working on Linux and has not been since ages ago. Let’s not even get into the question of how YouTube is even relevant.)

But the article does suggest an interesting related question: Should PDF be killed too?

Just as Adobe has artificially kept the zombie of long-dead Flash version 11.2 “alive” on Linux, what they’re giving Linux is also just the zombie of long-dead Adobe Reader version 9.3.3. Yet even Apple’s Preview on recent MacOSX versions cannot understand some of the newest PDF’s generated by Adobe Reader DC, such as those with custom stamps. If even Apple’s Preview is incompatible, Adobe Reader on Linux is useless.

However, Adobe Reader DC features are increasingly used by, for example, professional editors. Just as most professional editors demand that their clients use Microsoft Word, they also demand that their clients use Reader DC. If the client uses only free software, then, it will not be possible to satisfy the professional’s demand except by succumbing to non-free software running on non-free operating systems. Then what Reader DC represents is really a privileged power (major software companies) trying to subjugate an already-oppressed population through the hands of unwitting accomplices.

If a PDF win is equivalent to oppression, then PDF must be defeated. Perhaps the only defensible answer to Nell’s (rhetorical?) question – at least in light of current circumstances – is that PDF must lose and HTML must win, perhaps in the form of EPUB.

diversion from a bored day

Just some silliness to remind myself that I haven’t yet completely forgotten everything:

{
	f=SinOsc.kr(1/60, 0, 300, 440);
	SinOsc.ar([SinOsc.kr(2,0,100,f), SinOsc.kr(2,pi,100,f)]) 
}.play

Of course this is graphic design…

Yesterday I was mentioning to Emily that I couldn’t understand some of the graphic design work on the 5th floor. One looked like it came from Industrial Design. But the bulk of what I couldn’t understand looked just like installations.

Then today, while I was trying to find all my friends’ work in the final two hours, I ran into another one, Zviko Mhakayakora’s This Feels Like Home:

<cite>This Feels Like Home</cite> at GradEx 101

However, this time, although at first I felt puzzled for a short while, as soon as I read the artist’s statement I thought, “Of course this is graphic design!”

Context made all the difference. The designer framed this as an educational exhibit, and it clicked on me: This is environmental graphic design work for a museum exhibition. Graphic designers do this kind of work all the time.

So EGD is being taught at OCAD, and I think it appears to be taught well. One day, maybe OCAD’s campus will actually have good EGD.

An invalid question in the census. Seriously?

Statistics Canada is giving us a web survey. It actually looks good, but I’m less than impressed with some aspects of it.

I’ve never seen a survey with a hashed code that does not have the ability to save progress. If you try to log out (such as… you need to find out something you don’t know, or your computer is forcing you to restart, such as how Windows Update often does) you’re told “Any information entered will be lost.”

Not even the hack job I did for my thesis did this. If they didn’t trust their “secure access code” enough to store progress, how much should we trust it? Sigh.

And we were asked whether people can speak “well enough to conduct a conversation.”

What does that even mean? “How are you? Fine, thank you”? or does that mean a real conversation?

If even the short survey has an invalid question like this, how is the long survey giving us valid data that can help us plan social programs? Don’t they test their questions at Statistics Canada? Sigh.

Forgot how to make a book

Almost a year after I printed a copy of my thesis (intending to put it on display at GradEx, but shelved the idea when I thought the print shop didn’t print it), I finally took a few hours to gather all the signatures, sew them together, and glue them together into what vaguely looks like a book. It’s still not in book form only because my X-acto is with my box of tools in the studio and I forgot to print the cover.

Half-finished book, opened flat

Yes, of course this was going to be in the form of a real book, because that’s how all the process books at GradEx look like! :-)

Anyway, while I was doing this, I kept thinking things like “I’ve forgotten what the signature size was”, “I’m supposed to know how to do this”, “too many signatures!” and “I think I did this wrong,” A year after I did the Student Press’s bookbinding workshop I have already forgotten how to sew signatures together.

I still managed to bind the whole thing together. I’m going to get my X-acto back tomorrow and do a layout of a front cover and print it out somewhere… (Hmm… that will have to be printed at 12×18…)

(Oh yeah… and don’t bother to use staplers. Thread and needle is actually easier because you have more control. And awls… they make holes that are too big; I actually like pins better…)

Ubuntu disappoints, and software tweaks are what makes Macs usable

Months after the thought came up and my first failed trials, I have finally managed to install (so to speak) Ubuntu on my Mac, and I have to say Ubuntu disappoints on many small details. Coming from a pre-GNOME traditional Unix background, that’s some major disappointment I’m talking about.

My major disappointment is with the trackpad. With Ubuntu the Mac’s trackpad is barely usable. Right-clicking doesn’t work, even with the ”Accessibility” option turned on. Heck, even single clicking often doesn’t work because the system would register some tiny, stray vertical movement so you would end up clicking the wrong thing. The system also often registers stray horizontal movements (so that, for example, when you’re scrolling through a page the browser would suddenly switch to a different tab, or even a different app). So it seems that the Mac’s trackpad isn’t actually any better than what Windows laptops have; all the perceived usability is in the software drivers and Apple has done a lot of work making sure the drivers are tweaked to screen out stray movements.

Keyboard input also disappoints. The ”English (Macintosh)” mapping does not map the non-breaking space, and Chinese input does not seem to work. (Maybe Ubuntu is trying too hard to be “smart” and I need to disable all the modern stuff and go back to xkb and scim… or maybe it’s debugging and bug report time….) It’s also a major surprise to see that Emacs-style editing keys work on MacOS X but not in Ubuntu.

With more than one input method installed, simply clicking the input menu would often, inexplicably, switch to a different input method.

The Character Map is completely writing-script-based so you can’t pick out punctuation marks and other non-letter symbols; I had to resort to using printf in the terminal to get the symbols I need.

All in all a disappointment, and in the meantime I’ll need a bigger (and hopefully faster) USB stick.

Org charts are not trees

The first thing I tried was to read about D3 and tried to modify their example code to see what I could come up with. And then I realized something Very Important:

Org charts are not trees.

I should have known better. I had drawn org charts before and had already found out back then that org charts are not trees (okay, maybe for “normal” businesses they are… but a lot of nonprofits don’t have “normal” structures, so any alleged normality is only illusory). So all tree-based layouts are out. Back to square one…

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