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Sitrep

In case you hadn't noticed, my blog — and the rest of my website — is undergoing a major facelift right now.

There are still some changes to go, and not everything is going to be re-skinned and imported into a content management system; the old Linux and Perl side of my site is, regrettably, moribund (hasn't really been updated since 2004, and isn't going to be updated now).

If you think something isn't working, leave a comment on this post. (Remember, though, that not everything is changing all at once. What I really want to know about is broken links and scrambled graphics, rather than pages that are still in the old look'n'feel.)

Oh, and a round of applause for Feòrag, who's been working on this redesign for about four months now ...

80 Comments

1:

Looks good so far. Clean.

2:

Nice! *Applauds*

3:

Wow! Very nice. Can you get her to un-fix the new National Rail site? Also, can someone cauterize the bleeding stump of my brain after watching Who, M.D. last night? (Though I did laugh at Cap'n Jack chatting up a not-such-a-bad pilot farm boy at the cantina.)

4:

Yes, Applause! I noticed she was up at 4am -9pm mytime.

The German Amazon link for "Dämonentor: Die mysteriösen Fälle des Bob Howard" gets a 414 Request-URI Too Large.

Also 404 for Accelerando link -Germany and Japan.

5:

@4, also looks like the Unicode-to-HTML-markup goblin is on strike.

6:

My fault. That title was clean in the preview, but came out messed up after submitting. I'd pasted the text from the link.

7:

nice site.. seems like some part of the page isn't utf8 safe - at least the previous comment suggets this.
adding some umlauts to test this again: öäß..

8:

I'm not getting the 404s on either version of Accelerando, but thanks for noticing that I'd Scheiße gebaut elsewhere.

In other news, isn't the German cover for Halting State fabulous? Also good to see Ursula Kiausch, his translator, getting due credit.

9:

rupi@7: That's Movable Type. I recommend using XHTML entities, which don't usually get mangled, except when they do.

10:

* goes and corrects spelling of own name, before whacking Charlie with wet celery.

11:

Feòrag@8: The cover appears to be a nice take-off of the GTA IV artwork. At first glance I thought they'd preserved the inclusion of a portrait of the author in the design, but a closer look revealed that the bald guy with glasses didn't really look much like Charlie otherwise.

12:

Grand Theft Charlie?

404 for the Accelerando ebook links I should have said.

13:

JamesPadraicR@12: Bugger! That means he's been moving stuff around and not telling me!

14:

JamesPadraicR@12: Fixed now. He had indeed been moving things around and not telling me.

15:

Sorry to be a bother just found more 404s. The links for "Inside the Media Lab" and "Nothing like this will be built again" and Old Blog when clicked on from a different page. Looks to have older addresses?

16:

It takes half an hour to rebuild the whole site, so when I dinked with the widget with those links in, I only rebuilt the index pages and the five most recent entries. Otherwise it would take forever to notice the cock-ups. We'll do a complete rebuild tonight, probably when we have our tea, and then the correct links will appear on every page where that widget does.

17:

I like the shorter lines on the new blog design; long lines (over 60 characters) are hard to read.

18:

Applause!

I haven't done much noodling around the new version, but what I've seen so far, I like.

19:

Agreed, shorter lines are good.
Having the sidebar beside the posts is nice, it means I see it when I'm reading this in NetNewsWire, otherwise, I'd never see it. Speaking of which, was the "Propoganda" section always there? I like it.

20:

*ponder* should the book covers also be links to the relevant Amazon/whatever pages? Just a thought...

21:

@20: Later.

I'm not implementing this retroactively -- I've got 17 books in print in about 12 languages; that way lies madness -- but going forward each book will get its own web page with cover pics, reviews, links to online stores, news, and (subject to clearance) reading extracts.

(As/when books go out of print they're probably going to end up on the website in their entirety, under a Creative Commons license. As indeed has happened to "Toast". I'd CC-release "The Web Architect's Handbook" too, if (a) I could open the original files and (b) I thought anyone would be interested in a circa-1995 web book.)

22:

Feòrag, nicely done redesign. A nice New Years change for Charlie's blog. No complaints so far, only compliments - I'm glad it was kept simple and clean lines. Will let you know when I run into anything.

23:

The extra color is nice. Gives the page better contrast and makes the sidebar easier to read. So far, I like it.

24:

Looks cool.

25:

What's not working, you ask? Foreign policy, from FTO on down; Mousavi's not-quite-explicit call for jihad against certain political opponents who (at least allegedly) share his religious nuttery; the new Irish blasphemy law...

Oh. You meant on the website.

Never mind.

26:

Site looks nice.

I'm a web developer/designer by trade, so I feel compelled to ask: have you considered some different fonts for the site?

Also, I'd recommend using the JQuery javascript framework - you could use its Lightbox plugin on links to older pages - that would save you having to CSS style older archive pages.

All the best.

27:

AAIEE! Change! We 'ates, it we does! Filthy hobbitses, changing people's blogs! Hssss! --gollum ... gollum--

Cheers

Jim

28:

很好看! Definitely agree that the shorter lines improve the reading experience.

Is it deliberate that there is a different typeface in the comment-creation window\box (and also a different 'face in the "Name"\"Email Address" fields?). It isn't a problem, I'm just curious.

Looking forward to visiting more in the future.

29:

The addition of avatar icons to the comment boxes is nice, but spoils the flow of the comments themselves -- the shifting margins harms readability.

To my mind, floating the images to the right makes the comment much more readable, though at the cost of making the relationship between the poster and their icon less clear.

Otherwise, a clear improvement.

30:

Hoorah!

31:

Daniel@26: if the font looks crap, it's because it's the one you chose. I never make assumptions beyond serif or sans.

32:

Re comment layout, could the comment author name be bigger?
Also, to save vertical space (mobile browser here), maybe the comment index could share a line with the author and the rest.

33:

Just confirming that the design works fine on an iPhone, even on 2G (visiting my Mum in the provinces)

34:

Not sure if this counts as broken, but the sidebar on the main page has the Monthly Archives section included twice.

35:

Is accelerando.org supposed to link to the blog?

I noticed that while moving sideways--wanted to reread Toast, but my copy is in storage, most of a largish continent from here at the moment. Saw a reference to a "free" ebook version. Didn't find the ebook. Ran out of reading-time while looking, though, so I guess it worked.

36:

Feòrag @ 31: Can you suggest/recommend a good sans-serif font which doesn't induce perceptual errors due to improper keming – correction, kerning – of characters? Such a font would be worth paying actual money to acquire ... as would the advice requested.

I hasten to mention that the redesign is looking beautifully crisp (or crisply beautiful, if you prefer), which is no small feat given that the previous design was fairly compact to begin with. Well done!

(Alas, utf-8 characters appear to be doubly-interpreted: e.g., if one cuts and pastes your name into a response, said response will preview correctly exactly once; subsequent previews or submission result in manglation of your moniker.)

37:

Feòrag @ 31: Can you suggest/recommend a good sans-serif font which doesn't induce perceptual errors due to improper keming – correction, kerning – of characters? Such a font would be worth paying actual money to acquire ... as would the advice requested.

I hasten to mention that the redesign is looking beautifully crisp (or crisply beautiful, if you prefer), which is no small feat given that the previous design was fairly compact to begin with. Well done!

(Alas, utf-8 characters appear to be doubly-interpreted: e.g., if one cuts and pastes your name into a response, said response will preview correctly exactly once; subsequent previews or submission result in manglation of your moniker.)

38:

Hoorah: I can make a total arse of myself without preview. At last!!

39:

Wot no logo?

I know the 'clean' look is popular among geeks, but I'd go for some design flourishes. Notably in the header bar, which looks empty and a bit clinical.

Some book covers would bring the eye to the 'buy my books' section... which could also be extended a bit. Perhaps with upcoming releases? Not everybody's going to be up-to-date with what you've currently been working on.

I would also vote for the Halting State pixelated Charlie somewhere... but only because it amuses me. (Assuming you have rights to use it.)

40:

Oop... just noticed I can sign in via Livejournal. Is that a new feature?

41:

david @35: yes, accelerando.org points to the blog. Intention is that in a while, the blog will move (in its entirety) to accelerando.org.

To find the fiction, go to the blog front page. In the sidebar, under "Quick Stuff", click on "Bibliography and online fiction". Then start reading. Among other things you'll find a downloadable ebook edition of "Toast" ...

SpudTater @39: the front page got downloaded 270,000 times last month. My outgoing bandwidth last month was 33Gb -- and that's before you consider the mail server running on the same machine, which has to process and discard around 20,000 spams per day. The bandwidth impact of adding even a couple of modest images would be rather significant, especially as my hosting provider is in principle allowed to bill me extra if I go over 50Gb/month -- there's not a lot of headway available!

42:

spudtater: yes, you can log in via LJ. You can even use user icons if you feel like it. And unlike LJ I won't yell at you for breastfeeding.

43:

No offense intended, Feòrag.

To be honest, 80% of the time, body text within my sites is styled as Arial, and I never use non-websafe fonts (sIFR, Cufon and TypeFace all slow down the pages enormously if you try). It was really more of an inquiry into styling for headers - there are some beautiful free fonts out there.

Regarding the jQuery idea: I strongly recommend looking into it if you have the ability to add scripts to the site.

Anyway, I'll stop stepping on your toes - best of luck with the rest of the redesign.

44:

Sitrep?

Shouldn't it be Siterep? :-)

45:

Daniel, @43: your proposed use of javascript (to provide access to archives) -- wouldn't that render the archives inaccessible to people using a text-to-speech reader (or a non-Javascript enabled browser)?

Colour me very skeptical about any application of javascript on what is basically a text delivery site: it's the work of the devil as far as disabled access is concerned.

Plus, I routinely browse the web using NoScript on its most fascist setting, and only enable javascript for specific pages. Why should I compel my readers to enable a potential security hole just so they can read my words?

PS: If you're looking for free fonts, you can find some of Feòrag's on this very server.

46:

One mini-thing: could you support gravatar, if you are going to include comment-pics? I used a gravatar-enabled email-address for my comment above, and it still did show only the grey standard persona.

47:

50 GB/mo isn't very much. I know you've covered this before, and I don't know what the "other stuff" is, but are you aware that Linode opened up a London datacenter last month?

This is just a guess, but since 20k or 60k spams/day is less than 1 spam/second on average, I suspect that a Linode 360 would have no trouble running SpamAssassin (or whatever) on that, much less a Linode 720. That is, if you don't want to outsource your mail to Google Apps as I recently did.

48:

@47: Linode's nearest alternative to what I'm getting would cost me about twice as much (read: an extra US $600 a year).

Note also that it's not just my email that I handle on this server. Friends, family, mailman mailing lists ...

49:

Till@46: I've been looking for a plug-in to do that, but the ones that exist seem to want a gravatar to become the only option.

50:

Geniunely beautiful and a please to read (in both senses). All hail feorag for the redesign.

51:

Should be: genuinely beautiful and a pleasure to read. Silly me.

Re @8: is "Du Bist Tot" the best they could for a translation of the title of Haltng State? Though it sounds as if the cover design is not only great but also a neat and apposite nod to GTA.

52:

Daniel@43: there is actually no such thing as a "websafe" font - you have absolutely no idea what might or might not be installed on what devices (I, for example, have uninstalled all of the MS fonts because they are poor-quality rip-offs of fonts I already own and they clutter up my menus), nor do you have any idea of the eyesight of the person using the site.

This is why I set an override on this site to use nothing more than generic styles and (mostly) relative sizes. But himself demanded sans, which I consider to be unreadable for anything other than titles, so my own main browser is set to ignore "designers"' font choices altogether in favour of one that is legible and looks good on this monitor.

A fancy masthead would require a graphic, which would increase the load on the server beyond the budget. Also, there's not much point really, as the target demographic for this site is "people who are not intimidated by lots and lots of text"!

53:

site looks good on a plain text browser (www-browser). I could not post a comment using it, was I supposed to tick the unlabeled box after the 'remember personal info' one?

Dave

54:

As one not in love with sans serif fonts, I wonder if anyone has some pointers on overriding the font specs (using Safari). I've managed to get it in a serif font with the Safari Develop menu tools, but I'm having trouble making it stick.

From the server side, is there any chance the sans/serif choice could be left to the individual user?

55:

*looks around*

I do like the new decor in here. A lot easier to read and still loads reasonably quickly on my ailing system with firefox 1.5. Well done that feòrag person.

"...nothing but essentials
with no luxuries, no ornamentation
utter simplicity
but it's also clean, it's clean as a rifle"

56:

404 atm on the Tough Guide to the Rapture of the Nerds, will that be back? Wanted to link it here.

57:

sjef: the Tough Guide has moved. Hit on "Bibliography and online fiction" in "Quick Stuff" on the right, then click on "Accelerando", and you'll find it there.

(At least, I can get to it from there. Were you looking somewhere else -- if so, where? I don't want to leave any dangling links ...)

58:

The method I have in mind is a form of Progressive Enhancement - on the more extreme end of the NoScript side of things the links to the older pages would simply act as links.

I'll confess that I haven't looked into the implications of elements within pages loaded with content through AJAX calls on the performance of screenreaders; what little study of screenreaders I've done in the past suggests that they shouldn't have any. YMMV.

59:

Feòrag, not meaning to contradict you, but I've been working under the premise that the following fonts are common amongst all versions of Windows, Mac, Linux, etc for some years now:

font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
font-family: 'Arial Black', Gadget, sans-serif;
font-family: 'Bookman Old Style', serif;
font-family: 'Comic Sans MS', cursive;
font-family: Courier, monospace;
font-family: 'Courier New', Courier, monospace;
font-family: Garamond, serif;
font-family: Georgia, serif;
font-family: Impact, Charcoal, sans-serif;
font-family: 'Lucida Console', Monaco, monospace;
font-family: 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'Lucida Grande', sans-serif;
font-family: 'MS Sans Serif', Geneva, sans-serif;
font-family: 'MS Serif', 'New York', sans-serif;
font-family: 'Palatino Linotype', 'Book Antiqua', Palatino, serif;
font-family: Symbol, sans-serif;
font-family: Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif;
font-family: 'Times New Roman', Times, serif;
font-family: 'Trebuchet MS', Helvetica, sans-serif;
font-family: Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif;
font-family: Webdings, sans-serif;
font-family: Wingdings, 'Zapf Dingbats', sans-serif;

If you're intending this site to be used for Mobile and devices, then only the sans-serifs can be truly trusted, as mobiles (as you no doubt know already) have 'sporadic' CSS coverage.

Luckily, that's where the use of the 'font-family' rule comes in - it progressively enhances, ensuring older or mobile browsers never have inappropriate fonts.

I'll leave you both alone now - all the best to you both and hope to read Charles' next book soon.

60:

Charlie@57: Thanks, yeah it's there. Google etc still point to: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/toughguide.html

61:

Of those fonts, I have installed:

* various weights of Helvetica (shite to read onscreen like all sans serif fonts)
* Courier
* Garamond
* Charcoal
* Palatino (my favourite for onscreen reading)
* Symbol
* Times
* Zapf Dingbats

So, of your 21 combos, only 10 of them contain fonts I have installed. So your assumption was wrong.

62:

FWIW, I figured out how to make it serif in Safari. Add the following to a user style sheet (Safari menu - Preferences - Advanced).

*[class="asset-body"] p , *[class="comment-content"] p
{
font-family: serif ;
}

63:

Ouch. Well, I did say common, rather than ubiquitous, hence the use of font-families to provide a safety net for outliers.

One of my usual reference points:

http://www.ampsoft.net/webdesign-l/WindowsMacFonts.html

Like I said, not trying to be a smartarse here. And thanks to Charles for the link to those free fonts, btw.

64:

Very nice redesign: clean and well laid-out.

65:

Feôrag @ 10
WET CELERY?

Use Cardoons - much bigger, and tastier as well .....

@ 52 - no snas are a GOOD IDEA - the best-ever typeface for public adverts, corporate displays, notice, etc was specifically part-commissioned by the LNER - Gill Sans. Look at their travel posters from the 1930's for instance.

66:

Daniel: a major gotcha when assessing the needs of the visually handicapped is this:

* Blind reading aids are expensive. Screen reading software and braille terminals are a minority pursuit, so the usual commoditization of consumer electronics hasn't worked to lower the price -- you're looking at £500 and up for software under Windows, £5000 and up for a Braille terminal.

* Blind people are frequently unemployed -- about 69%, in Australia two years ago -- because their disability makes it significantly harder for them to work.

* Because of the high cost of equipment and frequent low income of blind people, they are therefore very likely to be using extremely old equipment for internet access.

In my opinion it's therefore not unreasonable to insist on web accessibility for ten year old browser standards when catering to the visually handicapped.

On fonts: unlike Feòrag, I don't bother uninstalling stuff, so my Mac's got the default set in place. Your list of "fonts common amongst all versions of Windows, Mac, Linux, etc" contains several that don't feature on OS X or Linux. As I will freely confess to being an anti-Microsoft bigot, I hope you will take my skepticism in the spirit in which it is intended ...

67:

sjef, @60: Google are not magic search pixies; the crawler hasn't hit my blog/website since the re-org. (It typically crawls me once a week.)

68:

Can you make http://antipope.org/ work, please? "www." is so 1990s.

69:

haha yeah I get that, by 'google etc' I meant google and the rest of the internet. Most other pages all still link to that address (or this one).
Maybe select a fine unicorn bone and carve some redirects?

70:

Charlie: As with most things when making decisions with websites, it's a question of trade-offs; coming from a design/development background I guess I just have a different perspective. If you're attempting to prioritise access to the visually impaired then I can understand some reluctance towards anything AJAX based.

Just in case you're interested, though:

http://juicystudio.com/article/improving-ajax-applications-for-jaws-users.php and
http://juicystudio.com/article/making-ajax-work-with-screen-readers.php

To make use of a cliched aphorism, It is possible with careful scripting to have your AJAX cake and eat it. But I can understand if this is a really important development area to you that its simpler not to take the chance.

As far as the question of fonts, I've just moved on from working in design agency - picture a sea of Macs stretching all the way to the horizon. Anything MS based was treated like a case of Tropical Itching Disease, so you're in good company.

Just as a parting shot on this subject, though: I'd really recommend at least a font-family style: it's Progressive Enhancement - people without the fonts will simply see what they see now; those with the fonts you choose will see them instead. It's not penalising people, merely offering extra functionality to those that can handle it. Oh and I really would recommend one of the following methods for header fonts:

sIFR
TypeFace
Cufon

These techniques allow you to use any font you want: they don't require the user to have them installed, and it seems a shame not to use some of those free fonts you pointed out to me earlier. Again, it's Progressive Enhancement, so you aren't penalising people.

All the best.

71:

Sending and viewing using IE on Windows Mobile 6.1. Readable but some of the headers are a bit funky.

(I just love unecured Wifi routers, don't you?)

72:

If you're worried about dangling links by the way, I would recommend the free link checker Xenu, we use it for all of our projects and it has some nice features (such as specifying a domain not to stray beyond, or link depth to check, etc).

73:

sIFR: Using Flash to render custom fonts.
Cufon: Using Canvas+Javascript to render custom fonts.

Ugh.

I mean, if you're going to do it, why not use CSS @font-face? (Is that what you mean to write instead of 'TypeFace'?)

Pretty much everything bar IE can use it, and doesn't require grievous hacks..

74:

The place looks good. Though its a it much just to fix the comments submission form ;)

75:

Gareth @68: I have two words for you, which may be interpreted as a directive couched in sexual/scatalogical terms.

Can't be arsed, mate.

76:

Looks good to me on a Windows XP Pro machine running the latest version of Firefox (as installed yesterday evening). This form, however, has an absurdly small font, as seen by me as I type this.

77:

Looks okay so far on a K6 Windows 98 machine running an old IE. Do you, server-side, sniff the platforms of your readers?

78:

I see the Google phone is launcing - unlocked as predicted.
Wonder how much a PAYG will cost?

79:

Me hat's off to ya, Feòrag. The new design looks very nice on both my Mac laptop and my iPhone. I like that there are still designers around who understand the need for clean, simple layouts without kilobytes of Flash code and Gothic user interfaces using JavaScript that make 10 roundtrips to the server per keyclick.

80:

Erm.
It doesn't load right on the el-boggo standard browser on my blackberry... (Well, er I did put version5 of the os on my bb9000, which isn't standard)
The text downloads, then appears to disappear in a little frame at the top of the screen. Choosing 'column view' from the web browsers options fixes it though.

(Can't wait till I can upgrade to a nokia n900! This bb would make a damn good skimming stone though I reckon, bet it would beat the iphone in that regard! Hmmm there's my idea for the day! The (ultimate, as in final) mobile phone skipping stone test!)

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on January 2, 2010 4:11 PM.

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