Trying out a new look

I’m trying out another new look for this blog. This design will probably evolve over time, but I am excited about the new direction — most significantly, the new colors, and the custom fonts using @font-face in CSS. The fonts are from a site I just discovered and am very excited about: The League of Moveable Type (no relation to Movable Type, the blogging software).

Of course, Internet Explorer won’t support it, so the fonts degrade to more common, standard, and boring options.

Let me know what you think!

New Coltrane site launched

John Coltrane, Avant Garde Jazz and the Evolution of "My Favorite Things"
I’m pleased to announce the launch of a brand new version of my John Coltrane website.

This is the first step in an ongoing process of splitting my currently mammoth website into distinct, separate websites tailored to specific content areas. Basically, each of the top-level navigation items you see at the top of this page will eventually become its own site.

For now there’s not a lot of new content on the Coltrane site — the big “draw” is the redesign itself. But I’ve added a blog to the site, and eventually I’ll also be adding a multimedia section where I’ll be featuring audio and video clips. Check it out!

This site design was also an opportunity for me to test the effectiveness of my new Room 34 Baseline WordPress theme. Believe it or not, that barebones theme really is the foundation upon which the new Coltrane site is built. So it works!

This site also takes advantage of some cutting-edge web design features: it’s built with HTML 5 and the Blueprint CSS framework, and it uses the emerging @font-face CSS method to render text in a custom font. I am using the free Museo font family throughout the site.

Sticky footers

Not to be confused with stinky feet, sticky footers are a CSS technique whereby a page footer always appears at the bottom of the page/window, even if the content of the page isn’t tall enough to fill the window completely. (For you HTML-phobes out there, normally all of the content on a web page flows vertically one element after another, meaning that your page “footer” can potentially end up in the middle of the window, with a bunch of blank space below it, if your page content is too short. Not to be confused with Too Short.)

I have seen sites whose owners had solved this problem, but as it’s never really been an issue for me (since I never have too little content to fill a page, I guess!), I haven’t bothered to dig into the solution, until today, when I needed to for work.

The Man in Blue (also known as Australian author and self-identified “web technologist” Cameron Adams), has posted an elegant solution, which has also been floating around in various forums.

It goes something like this… season to taste:

html {
  height: 100%;
}
body {
  height: 100%;
}
#nonFooter {
  position: relative;
  min-height: 100%;
}
* html #nonFooter {
  height: 100%;
}
#footer {
  position: relative;
  margin: -7.5em auto 0 auto;
}
/* A CSS hack that only applies to IE — specifies a different height for the footer */
* html #footer {
  margin-top: -7.4em;
}

OK, winter, we get it

I knew it was probably coming, so it wasn’t a total shock. But still… I woke up this morning to this:

Ugh. It will most likely have melted by noon, I suppose. Not that that will do much to repair my severely damaged psychological state.

Even worse, I’m annoyed that the default CSS for the new WordPress gallery functionality uses float: left so when there are only two images, it doesn’t center them, but leaves a nice, perfectly-sized void where a third photo would have gone. I’ll have to fix that. Speaking of voids, my annoyance (and distraction) at snow and CSS is somewhat compensated for by the smooth “electronic breakbeat jazz” grooves of Revolution Void.

Update, 8:13 AM: Great, now it’s actually snowing more. Take that, global warming! (Yes, please check out that site, if for no other reason than to prove that just because your URL is “globalwarming.org” doesn’t mean you’re a benevolent non-profit trying to save the world.)

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.)