The iPokédex is here!

iPokédexYes, I am into Pokémon. Way more than any 34-year-old could possibly justify. At least I have a kid I can use as my excuse. But it’s getting pretty serious. First the DS video games, now the trading card game, and of course I will sometimes watch the TV show and DVDs with him.

If you know anything about Pokémon (or, for those of you over the age of 10, who don’t), you know there are a lot of them. In fact, the sheer, staggering proliferation of them seems to be the main point, or at least a shrewd marketing tactic. As a result, there’s a lot of information to know about them, and thus arose the idea of the “Pokédex,” or Pokémon Index. The Pokédex is both an element in the games and the TV show, and a tool for fans, to store and retrieve information about all of the various Pokémon.

That’s all well and good, but what I really wanted was a version that was always at my fingertips, i.e. a version that works on my iPhone. Strangely there seemed to be no iPhone-friendly Pokédex out there. I can understand why an official one wouldn’t exist, what with Nintendo’s reluctance to license their brands to other hardware manufacturers (a smart move when you consider the disaster that resulted the one and only time they tried it), and especially when you consider that the iPhone is now essentially a competitor to the Nintendo DS.

Anyway… the point of all of this is that I’ve built my own iPhone-friendly Pokédex, which I am oh-so-creatively calling the iPokédex. Don’t bother going to though. (Yeah, I have no idea either.) I may eventually register a unique domain name for it (assuming I don’t get sued in the meantime), but for now you can find it here at this relatively pithy URL:


The new Room 34 Online Store is open for business!

I am pleased to announce that the new Room 34 Online Store is now officially open for business!

I’m still toying with keeping some of my designs up on Spreadshirt as well, since I like some of the shirt styles they offer that CafePress doesn’t, but CafePress simply offers a broader selection of products and a much better user interface (which is kind of sad, because it’s still not that great) for managing the store. Anyway… enough of that crap. Buy my stuff! I have some new designs posted along with my “classic” designs, and some more are on the way soon.

WordPress, I love you, but you drive me crazy

What’s even more extremely current than “bleeding edge”? Well, whatever it is, I’m not it. But I still try to keep my software as current as possible, and that includes updating WordPress whenever a new version is out. Most of the time, the difference is negligible, of course. Other than the major transformation of the admin interface with WordPress 2.5, very little actually changes as far as your site appears to the outside world. Which is good, for the most part, because you don’t really want unexpected changes on your site just because the underlying software is changed. It should all keep working just like it did before.

And there’s the problem: usually the only things I notice that are different when I run a WordPress update are things that are broken. That, and the fact that it’s a major pain to have to update the entire file set whenever a few changes are made. (It would be easy if I had terminal access to my server so I could upload the tarball, but no dice. I have to upload all n-thousand files individually.) So far I haven’t been able to find a reliable source listing exactly which files are modified from version to version.

That aside, what really frustrates me is when I do an update, like the 2.5.1 update that was released last week, and discover that none of my navigation works anymore. I still have no idea exactly what they did, but the old URL rewrites I was using — /%category%/%post_id% — crapped out. It seems like the %category% variable isn’t supported anymore, but I can’t find any documentation of that kind of change (nor can I comprehend the logic behind it, if it was in fact intentional).

Anyway, I discovered along the way that pretty much any of the rewrite schemes (at least, the 3 or 4 standard ones) seem to work, regardless of the one you’ve chosen as your “real” scheme. This makes sense because if you change the scheme, old links from other sites will still work. But my chosen custom scheme does not, anymore. So after some angry fiddling around, I settled on one of the standard schemes that’s almost like what I was using before, and everything seems copacetic, for now.

About the (potentially weird) links

In my ongoing efforts to crassly monetize my website, I’ve just added a new feature that synergistically leverages tools to dynamically embed targeted product links within my content. (Surely someone out there has a buzzword “BINGO” by now, so I’ll write the rest of this in the voice of a normal human.)

I’m noticing some weirdness in all of this, in terms of some random phrases that are triggering links to products I’ve never heard of, along with some other things that are too arcane for me to even bother identifying, because I’m a little embarrassed that I’m so friggin’ anal that I’d even notice them.

Anyway… most of the time, I think these links are pretty accurate, and it’s a great way for you to seamlessly transition from reading my drivel to lining Jeff Bezos’s pockets, not that they’re not already overflowing. Mine aren’t, however, and if you buy things from Amazon via links on my site, Jeff might just throw a bone my way. Thanks…

Another new design (or lack thereof)

Although I was relatively happy with the most recent design on this site, I just found it to be too cluttered once all of the detritus of my actual blog posts got thrown into the mix. So I’ve taken the same basic layout (including my ongoing issues with clear: both which I just haven’t had time to resolve) and stripped out most of the visual elements: I’ve replaced the pungent green gradient background with plain white; I’ve removed the light green background on the sidebar; I’ve changed the background of the nav bar to extend across the page and given it a splash of the gradient color removed from the rest of the page; etc.

It’s all a bit plain now, of course, but that’s kind of the point. However, the design will be evolving over the next few weeks as I work out a proper solution for the header area (even including, perhaps, the glorious return of the “34 photos” gimmick I was doing a year or so ago, now that I have a camera in my pocket at all times, and can snap more images of the number “34″ around the city).

I know you care!

Update: Guess what. Screwed up in Internet Explorer. Awesome. More hugs ‘n’ kisses for Ballmer. Looks like it might just be a simple z-index thing, though, so I’ll fix it once I finish running the obligatory Windows Update.

WordPress 2.5

Having now set it up on a client’s site at work, and being impressed with the experience, I’ve gone ahead and upgraded this site to WordPress 2.5. The changes to the new version are mostly on the “back end” (it’s less unseemly than it… er… seems), but it does feature a built-in photo gallery feature I’m interested in trying out (no offense to the Dutch Monkey… but good riddance to the cumbersome-at-best Gallery2), even though it means the “Offspring” pages will probably be out of commission for a while as I restructure things.

I still haven’t really gotten into using WordPress widgets, and I’m sure there are a ton of other cool things I could implement if only I had the time to discover them. (Although now that I’m actually using WordPress — at least on one project — at work, the chance of me “discovering” these features and plug-ins should increase somewhat.)

Room 34 on iPhone

iPhoneI finally got myself an iPhone on Thursday. In fact tomorrow I will have two, which is one more than I need (and is also a story for another post), but the point right now is that I finally have an iPhone.

Naturally one of the first things I did with the iPhone was take a look at how looks on the iPhone. And since the iPhone’s Safari browser works pretty well, it looked fine. But since it’s optimized for a 1024×768 display, it also was a tad small.

By now I am all set to create an iPhone-friendly version of the site, but since it’s built on WordPress, I was pretty sure someone would already have created an iPhone-friendly theme, and sure enough, someone did. But they actually went one step further and built it as a plug-in, so you can keep your regular theme for computer-based visitors and mobile users will automatically see the mobile version. Nice!

It’s a bit plain for my tastes, and it doesn’t account for the fact that I’ve built my own navigation bar and menu system for browsing the non-blog pages of my site, but it’s a start. I plan to customize it over the next week or so to look more Room 34-ish, and to include all of the necessary navigation.

OK, Microsoft, you’re off the hook…

ballmer_tongue.jpgBut not in the way that the Cheat is off the hook.

I fixed the IE6 CSS problem I ranted about yesterday, and it was perhaps one of the more satisfying solutions I’ve encountered where IE is concerned, because all it required was that I remove a few lines of CSS code that turned out to be unnecessary anyway.

My approach to CSS is one of building a solid page structure and then fine-tuning the details until I have exactly what I want. A side effect of this is that sometimes I leave in unnecessary definitions along the way. If they don’t alter the output in the browsers I test (Firefox always, Safari often, IE7 at least once or twice along the way), then it’s good.

But in this case I had an entire definition that was completely unnecessary. It wasn’t hurting anything in Firefox or Safari, but it was doing all sorts of crazy crap in IE6. Naturally, in such a situation, I blame Microsoft.

To be honest it’s not really (entirely) Microsoft’s fault. I have to recognize that I’m building pages to be interpreted by different rendering engines (the latter part of which is where Microsoft’s blame, to the extent it exists, resides). But there are an unlimited number of ways to write standards-compliant code (which I think I do pretty well, most of the time), not all of which lead to the same desirability of output. So if there’s a standards-complaint way to also accommodate IE’s quirks, that’s the way to go. My biggest problem is that my access to IE6 is fairly limited, and IE7, although it has its own quirks, is a lot closer to what Firefox and Safari produce.

So… there you have it. The site should now look good in every major browser currently in use (Firefox, Safari, IE7 and IE6). If not, complain below!

On a side note, Steve Ballmer sticks out his tongue a lot. (Even when you’re not deliberately looking for it.)

Microsoft! You’ve done it again

IE6, to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.Drat.

As I was assembling the current site redesign, I took extra care to ensure that this time around it would be compatible with IE6, as much as a I detest it. I got rid of all of the 24-bit transparent PNGs, opting instead for minor design alterations that could rely instead upon 8-bit PNGs, non-transparent 24-bit PNGs or JPEGs. I even tested the code for the navbar to ensure that it was properly floated and that the drop-down menus worked.

But then I must have gotten into a fine level of finessing the placement of certain objects or… something. At any rate, I’ve done something in the past few days that, now that I bother to check, apparently breaks the navbar in IE6.

I’ll have to futz some more and try to undo whatever I did (and hope it isn’t something that’s critical to the perfect layout in every other browser out there). In the meantime, my apologies to my one regular IE6 visitor. (You know who you are.) Oh well, at least I have a regular visitor.

New site design (partially) implemented

My guilt over slighting those regrettably still stuck using Internet Explorer 6 finally got the best of me, and I decided to do a new site design that doesn’t completely break down in that (outdated) browser.

Well, that’s not really the reason I did it. I wanted to take a new approach that allows for more customization of the presentation in different sections of the site. But I made it IE6-friendly while I was at it. The new design is based on another color scheme called “Salamander” that I found at Kuler. (Sorry, I’d link right to the specific color palette but, guess what, it’s Flash. Boo.)

It’s not finished yet, but I wanted to put the necessary pressure on myself to keep working on it until it’s completely done. So now that it’s far enough along to be presentable to the public, I’m rolling it out.

Most of the cool site-specific graphical headers are still missing, so it’s falling back to a generic presentation with a nice garish green band at the top. Certain other fine details are also still missing in the CSS, but I’m getting there.

Eventually there will be more dramatic changes to the page structure: the home page will be more of a “portal” than just a dump of the most recent blog posts; different sections of the site will have different content in the sidebar, etc. But this is a start.