Hospitals aren’t always healthy

This isn’t much of a blog entry, but I felt like I just had to write this. Take a look at this story here, it’s just completely horrendous. What kind of hospital lets a patient die after two hours of unattended, casually observed suffering? I’m not one to judge too soon, but it’s apparent that this particular medical facility was not particularly concerned about the welfare of its patients. I just hope they are aptly punished for their negligence.

Besides incidents like these, which are usually isolated, hospitals aren’t very charitable – So you ran out of money? It’s out on the pavement with you. It doesn’t matter if you have a sore throat or fatal cancer, as long as you aren’t paying you might as well curl up and die – just don’t do it on our premises, ’cause we might get in trouble, got it?

This kind of attitude would probably not cut it in a small town or a village, because of the close knit communities and mutual back-scratching. In an urban setting, however, it’s usually the norm to ask questions first and saves lives later. After all, a doctor who learns after saving a life that he isn’t going to get paid is going to want to kill the patient anyway, right? So let’s just let him die now, instead of wasting precious resources on a worthless existence.

First Day of Fall Break

Today was the first day of fall break. I went to Marketplace Mall and Wegman’s with a couple of friends to buy food for the two weeks of cafeteria devoid campus life that are to follow. They really should keep places we eat open during break, but apparently the few students who don’t leave at thanksgiving aren’t worth it.  My results aren’t too good this quarter, I got my first C yet in Engineering Statistics. Hopefully it will be the last one too. At least I managed two A’s as well.

I was also able to install Windows XP on my laptop due to a BIOS update by Asus. I must say, my laptop is performing far better and hasn’t run into any problems at all yet. It boots faster, plays better and doesn’t freeze at all. Of course, I had to reinstall all the essential software I lost during a format, but it wasn’t all that bad compared to the benefits.

Don’t really have any plans for break, probably going to play Fallout 3 a lot and drink a lot of tea – I missed the tea I get at home so I bought some at Wegman’s, and I must say that Darjeeling tea is Darjeeling tea, no matter where you buy it. This is, of course, very fortunate. I also bought a lot of cereal and a lot of milk. Organic milk is way whiter than non-organic, which is sort of disturbing, because something must be wrong with those injected growth hormones if it makes milk yellow.

Anyway, I’m almost done with this cup of tea and have to go do my laundry now. This is going to be fun.

My Laptop is Currently Comatose

This post is just a quick update to let you know that my one-year old laptop – an Asus G1S – which I reformatted as recently as last week, has decided to slip into a coma during exam week. This isn’t entirely unfortunate, as it means I will be putting more time towards studying for the two finals I have tomorrow.

I really do wish my laptop would stop doing things like this though. It currently seems beyond my skills to repair it, perhaps I will finally get the chance to avail that two year warranty from Best Buy.

Not much else is up, or this would have been a blog post.

College Puzzle Challenge 2008!

What better way to revive my blog than with a revitalizing post about something exciting? With this in mind I have deleted all my previous posts (oops…) and cleared out some space for a new beginning. Yes, that’s right – another new beginning. So without further ado, I’ll begin writing about team Duplicitious’s antics at this year’s College Puzzle Challenge.

As per the e-mail we all got, Alex (Dean), Geoff and I got there at 11 am, to be greeted by an empty room. We might have been convinced that we were in the wrong place if it wasn’t for the arrival of some other participants shortly thereafter. Ryan arrived at about 11:30, which was also when people from Microsoft showed up to set things up. There was lots of food and a presentation that lasted beyond 12 o’ clock – which meant most other universities had a headstart on us.

Long story short, we mashed our brains over dozens of puzzles and only managed to solve enough to clock in at #5 at RIT. Out of 13. Yes, we didn’t do that well for ourselves, but it was our first time and it was lots of fun. Besides, can’t beat free food, t-shirts and hats. The only advice I can give to other puzzlers who might take part next year is – the hints are dumb most of the time, and e-mail for hints as much as possible, because that might actually be helpful.

Potter’s party is today, I didn’t go since I have to do some work for class and am pretty tired from yesterday’s 12 hour tirade. Needless to say, we’ll do better next year.

Also, I formatted my laptop and so lost all the psd files and such I used to create this template, so now I am extremely limited in what I can change here. Unless of course I happen to find some long forgotten storage device containing the files in question. Unlikely.

Tutorial: Using CSS For Image Descriptions

I was planning on writing this one quite a while ago, but I got a little busy and it slipped my mind. Sorry about that! Well, here it is at last, the tutorial that will show you how to display the summary of an image when it is hovered over – for example, the website thumbnails in the link gallery.

Getting Started

Before doing anything else, you must first decide on a fixed size for your image, or images. All subsequent images that need a hover description using the same CSS should have the same size as the first one, because we will be basing our measurements off of it.

For this tutorial, I will be using the scaled down image of a cloudy sky from stock.xchng, the free stock photo resource. This is what the original image looks like when resized to 300×200 pixels:

The Original Image

Preparing The HTML

The thing with CSS is that when using it for styling, there has to be something to apply the style to. Assuming all your images are not the same size and you want this effect on only a select few, we will enclose the image – along with the summary – in nested div elements.

Here is what my code looks like, and what yours should resemble:

<div class=”imageshell”>
<a href=”your-url-here”><span>
<img width=”300″ height=”200″ alt=”Cloudy Sky”
src=”wp-content/uploads/2008/08/tut_cloudimg.jpg” />
<div>
This is a caption for this image, which depicts white clouds
against a beautiful blue sky. This space, besides containing text,
can also house other media – you can even treat it like a small
individual web page (within limits, of course).
</div>
</span></a>
</div>

Styling It With CSS

Okay, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for – here’s where the fun of making it work begins. Now before you pull out your stylesheet, I need to remind you that this code is based off the size of the image you are using, and you may have to modify it to suit your needs. With that out of the way, here’s the magic recipe:


.imageshell{
width:300px;
height:200px;
text-align:left;
}
.imageshell a:hover div {
color:#333333;
display:block;
}
.imageshell div {
background-color:#F3EBCC;
display:none;
width:290px;
height:190px;
position:relative;
padding:5px;
left:0px;
top:-200px;
}You will notice that the size of the inner div is smaller than the image by 10px each on height and width (or 5px on each side) – this allows the padding to expand it to fill the image. Of course, you are free to modify any part of the code as you please, for example changing colors, sizes and padding. Some modifications may break it, but that depends on what you are trying to do.

Note: The most probable thing you will need to tweak is the top and left attributes in the style for the inner div. This is because it depends on the default border and padding settings on your image from the pre-existing CSS.

The Final Product

I’ve removed the example that was here for W3C reasons, you will find the end product in the link gallery. Leave a comment if you have any issues. Demo here.

Tutorial: CSS Rollovers As Anchors

This tutorial is for those who want to give their visitors a simple way to navigate to different places on the same page. For example, a link at the bottom that sends you to the top of the page – especially helpful on long pages, where no one wants to do the scrolling. You will need a very basic knowledge of HTML, the will to brave messing with your source code, and a couple of images (if you want an image link).

Step 1 – Doing it without the images

We’re starting off with the simple concept of anchors – links that link to links that link to nothing. Okay, maybe I need to explain that…an anchor, by itself, is something that exists for the sole purpose of marking a position on a webpage. Then, you can link to that anchor, which will essentially send anyone who clicks the link to the position defined by the anchor. Still don’t get it? Let’s go hands on.

First off, put this line of code right after your <body> tag:

<a name="top" />

This defines the very beginning of your document as the location of the “top” anchor. Next, let’s try linking to it – put the following code where you want your “Back to top” link to appear (you can change the text, of course):

<a href="#top">Back to top</a>

The ‘#’ in there tells your browser that this link is pointing to an anchor and not to an independent URL. After you’re done, try clicking the link. Does it work? If it doesn’t, go back and try again. :P

Step 2 – CSSing it up + images

Before we go any further, you will need to grab a couple of images: one will be the active link, and the other image will appear when the user hovers the mouse over that link. Let’s say one of the images is named link_normal.gif and the other one is link_hover.gif – note that they must be of the same dimensions, in this case let’s assume they are both 220px by 50px.

All you have to do to your actual code at this point, is to include the following code where the link is to appear:

<a href="#top" class=myanchorlink></a>

Comparing this code to the above without-images HTML, you may notice that there isn’t that much of a difference – all you did was replace the text with a div element. But where is the image, you ask? Well, we’re going to implement that now.

All the real magic will take place in your CSS file. I hope you know where your CSS file is – in case you don’t, you can always view your source and find it. For WordPress the CSS file is style.css in your current theme’s folder. After you find it, add the following code to the end.

.myanchorlink{
width: 220px; //use your own image’s width!
height: 50px; //use your own image’s height!
background: url(images/link_normal.gif); //your image url
cursor: pointer;
display: block;
}
.myanchorlink:hover{
background: url(images/link_hover.gif);
}

Voila! You’re done. Unless you copy-pasted my code without modifications, it should be working fine. If you did just copy-paste my code, it might not work because this is a tutorial that simply gives you an example to modify and implement with your own images.

If you have any problems, drop me a line and I’ll try to help you out.

WP Plugin: StumbleUpon Favorites~!

WordPress + StumbleUpon I was planning on releasing this plugin tomorrow, but I decided against it – couldn’t make you wait, couldn’t wait myself. I’m talking about “StumbleUpon Favorites”, a plugin that basically allows you to list your most recently liked StumbleUpon pages on your WordPress blog as a widget.

Wait, you could do that with a normal RSS widget right? True, but this thing comes with a bunch of bells and whistles, plus the promise of more to come (either from me, or from some clever third party out there – probably me, but feel free to modify this!). You can see the widget in action to the right, although yours may look different depending on the settings you choose.

Current Features:

  • Easy integration – just type in your StumbleUpon username!
  • Option to display/hide the StumbleUpon logo
  • Option to display/hide the number of votes for a bookmark
  • Automatic conversion of long links into links shortened by ellipsis (…)
  • The items display quotes and ampersands properly despite StumbleUpon’s double-encoded HTML entity system (The RSS widget will not do this)
  • All links are nofollow by default
  • All links open in a new tab/window, depending on whether the browser supports tabs

Installation:

  1. Download the plugin archive using the link below
  2. Extract archive contents to folder (stumble_faves recommended)
  3. Upload folder to the ‘/wp-content/plugins/’ directory
  4. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
  5. Place the newly available widget in your sidebar and configure it

That’s it, five simple steps and you’re done. Now, without further ado, I present the StumbleUpon Favorites plugin as a free download!

Download StumbleUpon Favorites (WP 2.3 to 2.5.1+)

 

 

To Do List:

  • Integrate favorite website screenshots
  • Improve plugin based on feedback

I will be happy to offer support and troubleshooting through the comments of this post, as long as you leave enough details about your troubles and maybe a link to the problem site.

How To Be A Master At Web Design

Welcome, fellow designers and designers-to-be. Now, although you may already be very good at web design and development, I will attempt to give you some information to make you faster and maybe better.

I myself don’t claim to be an excellent web designer, but I’ve done my share of designing as a freelancer and I wish I’d found these tips somewhere when I began my web design career. To that end, I have made this list for anyone who will read it.

Below you will find the list containing these tips, ranked in the order of usefulness – last being worst, though not all that bad by itself.

1. Tame the Firebug

The FirebugIt’s quite time consuming and pretty wasteful to check on your changes after making a modification or two in your source code – yet, most of you do it. Do you think you have to? If you do, you’d be wrong. There is a user-friendly, simple extension for Firefox called Firebug that can make your life much easier.

So, what exactly does Firebug do? It allows you to modify your HTML/CSS dynamically, watching the changes appear on your page as you type. It’s very intuitive a la Dreamweaver, albeit browser based and somewhat better.

2. Do Things Differently

Very often, I’m tempted to take inspiration to a whole new level and copy the layout of a website div for div. While is neither unethical nor illegal (unless you are copy-pasting or stealing images), it won’t be doing much for you as a designer, or for your website as a service. Let’s put it this way: how often will you buy a can of juice from a new brand, that looks almost exactly like the can of a well-known brand? Unless you confuse the two, chances are you’ll think of the new one as a cheap imitation of the original that lacks quality.

Although it is unlikely that this will happen on the web, though it depends on the popularity of the website that inspired you, chances are your website will not stand out from the crowd and end up being utterly average in terms of design. With web design, creativity and usability never go unrewarded.

3. Choose The Right Colors

Some color combinations don’t look good on certain operating systems due to differences in the gamma correction, others are just a pain for users to look at. If you want your website to be popular and considered well-designed, the colors you choose for it are crucial. The text should be very readable, and the colors shouldn’t hurt your eyes if you look at them too long. The example to the top left is an extreme case, which would probably never occur in reality, but some beginners do come quite close.

Thankfully, there are many resources out there to make taking care of this aspect a cinch for us designers, such as ColorSchemer and this collection.

4. Style Separately

Although it is fine for small snippets of CSS to appear within an HTML document, larger style sheets that are required on more than one page should be linked to as an external file. This enables the browser to cache it, and therefore save both your bandwidth and your visitors’ time. Similarly, most javascript code should also be linked to this way, using functions to enable usage within the HTML.

Creating and linking to such files is extremely easy, and explained very nicely in these CSS and JS tutorials.

5. Simplify For Size

Size Does MatterYes, this is the age of T1 and T3 lines, but there are still people out there with prehistoric 56kbps connections. Some webmasters actually choose to ignore this entire sector and go for huge pages, but no one ever calls them good webmasters. If you want to make a good design, make it good for all speeds and resolutions. That’s right, size here refers both to the size of your files and the resolution of your page.

If you want get the most out of your byte, run some tests first (Incidentally, Firebug also allows you to see how much time files take to download). If the results are not satisfactory, you can try the tips the analyzer gives you, or try some of these performance boosting methods.

As far as the resolution is concerned – you can either fix your width to something under 640 pixels or 800 pixels (depending on your target audience), or just cut all the bother and go with a fluid width page. The latter is usually preferred by designers due to its compatibility and the fact that it doesn’t appear to be a wafer thin page on higher resolutions.

6. Validation Is Valuable

Gone are the days when we had to check what our website looked like in every single browser. All we have to do nowadays is make sure that our pages validate, then go check them out in IE6, just to make sure. There are millions of websites on the internet that don’t even come close to validating, but still look fine to most people – however, web standards and browsers are continually changing and it pays to keep up with the times.

The W3C has two great tools at its disposal for web designers – The Markup (HTML, XML…) validator and the CSS validator. Both are highly recommended and you should try them out on your website ASAP, lest it may be broken for one of your coveted visitors. You can also check out their link checker, but it has more bearing on development than on design.

Valid XHTML! Valid CSS!

The Six Reasons Greek Gods are Better

(Preliminary Disclaimer: The author is an atheist born to Hindu parents and was never a Christian or a Greek, although the jury is still out on the God issue)

Everybody knows about the ancient Greeks – one of the first advanced civilizations that emerged in Europe. They are famous for their rich mythology peppered with drama and violence (hey, something had to make up for the lack of TV!), wherein heroes and gods perform incredible tasks that make for awfully entertaining stories.

Then there is the Bible – bland and confusing, written supposedly by God himself. Needless to say, it is about as entertaining as a gothic melodrama written in broken sign language. If it wasn’t already obvious, I am suggesting that the Greek gods are infinitely better than the God of the bible. To prove this point, without further ado, I give you:

The Six Reasons Greek Gods are Better

  1. They would kill you for your sins
    The Greek gods are neither good nor evil, merely powerful. To this end, power is their defining quality rather than goodness – and nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Ares killing Halirhothius for violating his daughter.

    In comparison, the Judeo-Christian God sent his son to eventually die helplessly for the sins of others.

  2. They reproduce without human help
    Why did the all-powerful God of the Bible need the Virgin Mary to reproduce? Because you are not allowed to question his divine plans, that’s why.

    On the other hand, Greek gods were far more human and had relationships and offspring among themselves.

  3. The mergods – Jesus vs Hercules

    Heracles/Hercules was half-man, half-god – just like his Christian counterpart Jesus. However, he had superhuman strength and performed various tasks of Herculean difficulty. As far as Jesus is concerned, all his miracles were merely performed to persuade witnesses into conversion, and furthermore he was not able to prevent his own embarrassing demise.

  4. They are not “all-powerful”, and hence more plausible

    The problem that arises when a human being sets out to write a book under the pseudonym of an omniscient being is that there are a lot of contradictions and unbelievable facets in the story. The Greeks cleverly avoided this by depicting their gods as almost human, just with larger amounts of power and wisdom. There was no omniscience or omnipotence involved, which probably made it easier to convince followers too.

  5. They made creatures like the Centaur and the Minotaur

    Compared to…well, nothing from the Bible compares. Need I say more?

  6. They weren’t half as dumb
    as the guy who wrote the Bible. At the very least, they knew the Earth was a sphere. Well, not necessarily, but they never said it was flat. Atlas, anyone?

And those, my friends, are the six reasons Greek gods are better. Besides, they star in their own comic books, which means they are much cooler than some dumb old geezer who’s planning to send me to a hell I don’t believe in.

The Domain Game

Now, it’s not an entirely unknown fact that domain names are hot property nowadays. Online entrepreneurs buy and sell thousands of domain names everyday, making hefty sums of money in the process. Of course, there are some who lose out, mostly due to their inability to pick a quality name combined with the inability to find someone stupid enough to buy whatever nonsense name they have come up with.

Then there are those who sit on domains – for days, months, even years at a time. From this they expect to gain either an interested party or a price hike in the domain they’re sitting on for random reasons – virgle.com is an example of the latter.

Personally, I dislike domain squatters.

No, really, I do. Especially those who do nothing with their domains. They make my blood boil so, because they are occupying names when others could be using them better. It’s like sitting in a public toilet with the door locked and an year’s supply of newspapers, without doing your business.

Squatting aside, I also hate companies that come up with weird names and copyright them, then find someone with the domain similar to the new name and sue the person. Even if the domain was ten years old and the company came up last year, chances are that the company will snap it up. This sucks so much that I can’t even put how much it sucks into words.

Furthermore, companies like Google, the search engine, can essentially shut down an online business in mere days. All they have to do is mark a website as malware/spam. Seriously, how long will you remain a Pepsi customer if everytime you go there through google, you are told that they are trying to install spyware on your computer?

All of this and more sillyness is prevalent to an astounding degree on the interwebs. Fortunately, there’s a lot of good stuff too, which I won’t be mentioning here because I am feeling pessimistic.