Monthly Archives: November 2003

Loads of CSS Stuff

A nice 3 column demo by Holly Bergevin with good comments

3 Column Complex Layout demo
and with more technical comments 3 Column Complex Layout demo

Position Is Everything has some good articles and links (mostly about positioning – now theres a surprise).

The ThrashBox is a page about how to produce nice nboxes with rounded corners in very simple CSS and XHTML. Uses ideas from the Sliding Doors article on A List Apart (I linked to that from A List Apart is re-launched).

Two links from CSS Creator. First, Light Weight Multi Level Menu which is neater than many others, certainly less code. Secondly a page to Generate a CSS layout for your site which is handy for 3 column layouts.

A good article from Andy Budd on margins, particularly on the way they collapse at No Margin for Error

The source for many of these and a useful site in it’s own right is cssvault and I found that from scrivs own weblog white space and I found that through it being one of the weblogs featured on one of‘s Buzz lists of weblog articles (I can’t remember which one because I subscribe to several of them).

Update: Verdana font wierdness

An update to 42: Verdana font wierdness I have just upgraded to the latest nightly build of Mozilla Firebird and that problem is solved. Unfortunately, I can’t persuade NewsMonster to work properly with this build (may also have something to do with Java 1.4.2). So I am sticking to Mozilla 1.4 for Newsmonster and Mozilla Firebird for everything else.

Not using NewsMonster in Mozilla Firebird has solved a few other issues as well eg New Browser windows kept opening empty, the Web Developer extention toolbar did not show correctly and the url did not always update correctly as I moved around sites. Still it is a bit of a pain as so much of my browsing comes from NewsMonster – but without these bugs Mozilla Firebird is a superb browser for web application development and general browsing.

Amazon API and caching

In a comment on my post 42: Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards: A List Apart, Rene asks

Q: I’m doing a site using Amazon web services at – I get the xml and xsl but I don’t get the “caching” of the xml results that Amazon requires – any ideas? Thanks.

So far as I can see from Amazon has a number restrictions in it’s license that may require caching.

A2 No more than 1 request per second (Condition A2)

D2 You must refresh all data you cache from Amazon every 24 hours except

D3 You must refresh any prices you show at least once per hour

If you expect your volumes to be low enough to not break condition A2 then you do not HAVE to cache. But for example if your page requires 2 api calls to get it’s content and you expect to ever serve more than 1 page every 2 seconds then in theory you MUST cache the results from Amazon. However, even if your volumes do not require you to cache then possibly you should cache anyway as

a) Hopefully volumes will increase over time (and amazon could change the limits)

b) Your sites performance is likely to be poor if you have to make API calls to fill each page.

After a quick glance at zoomazon it looks as if the pages are all fully dynamically pulled in from Amazon as required, it would therefore be quite easy to break the API limit. On the other hand caching these would also be quite easy if you can do some server side coding.

Essentially you would need to have a store, the index would be the url of the request to Amazon. Whenever you are about to make an amazon call you first check if the result of that url is already in your store, if it is and is recent enough to use you don’t make the call and simply re-serve you existing copy. If you don’t have a copy or the copy is too old (more than 1 hour old if includes price, otherwise more than 24 hours) then you make the call, store the result and then use it.

Most likely the store for these results could be in memory (particularly if you have a background process to remove results that are too old from the store).

At present it looks like your site does not have any serverside coding, that is working well and obviously makes building a site simple. But if Amazon do intend to enforce the restrictions in the license it will not scale very far. OTOH getting this to work serverside would be relatively easy. – Desktop Linux and the Tipping Point – Desktop Linux and the Tipping Point

As another person using Linux as my desktop operating system (for just over 5 years now) I too can testify that it is good for my productivity, sanity and finances.

Yes I also use Windows, currently my laptop is WinXP only, but I spend as much time as possible using this dell desktop cos I so much prefer working in what is a much better environment for me.

I confess that I have the two machines sitting side by side when at home. Both are connected to 21″ monitors. At this moment the laptoip is playing a DVD (“The Importance of being Ernest”). While the desktop has 2 terminals, thunderbird, mozilla, jedit and openoffice open.

I currently use Mandrake 9.1, with KDE, although Debian is the most widely used OS at Sundayta, I will probably try Gentoo next.


FrogPad is an interesting, small keypad that can replace your keyboard. Currently it connects using USB but a Bluetooth version is in development. Could be very handy as a go anywhere one handed typing device.

They don’t seem to give any indication of typing speed with it which is a pity as surely that would be very key to it’s usefulness.

With the ubiquity of usb we have the practical possibility of being able to carry your own keyboard everywhere and use on any computer which means that an alternative to qwerty becomes quite attractive – particularly to 2 finger typists like me (albeit fast 2 fingered).