Quick CSS fix for WordPress Block Editor (Gutenberg) link hover color issue

The WordPress Block Editor (a.k.a. Gutenberg) makes it easy to set the text, background, and link colors on any block. But links can and often do have more than one color. And there’s no option here for setting the hover color. So what do you do in what, I think, may be a common situation, where you’re setting a background color on a block and making the link text white, but your theme’s link hover color is either the background color you’re switching to, or something way too close to it?

I’ve come up with a very tidy bit of CSS code that will make your link hover state match the custom link color — granted, you lose the UX of a unique color on hover state, but you gain necessary legibility and accessibility, which I guarantee is more important.

This may not work in every situation, but it’s so simple that it’s worth investigating as an option. With this code, any time you have a block that sets both a custom background color and a custom link color, it will ensure that the hover/focus state matches the custom link color:

main .has-background-color.has-link-color a:focus,
main .has-background-color.has-link-color a:hover
{ color: inherit; }

Update (April 4, 2023): Yeah, don’t do this. You can specify these colors in theme.json. I’m not sure if this is a recent addition, the documentation was previously lacking, or I just didn’t find it, but anyway… do this instead.

Which bass does Geddy Lee use for each song on Moving Pictures?

I have a reason, which will be revealed on my YouTube channel next week, for considering which type of bass Geddy Lee plays on each track of Rush’s 1981 masterpiece album Moving Pictures. There seems to be much debate out there in the world over which basses he used especially on Permanent Waves (1980), Moving Pictures, and Signals (1982), because he was known to play a Rickenbacker 4001 almost exclusively on their late ’70s prog albums, but he briefly worked a Fender Jazz Bass into the mix before going all-in on Wal basses in the mid-’80s (with an occasional Steinberger thrown in for peak ’80s futurism). From the mid-’90s on, Geddy has almost exclusively gone back to the Fender Jazz Bass.

So Moving Pictures really is kind of a pivot point, both for the band stylistically and for Geddy in terms of his bass gear. It is (I think?) well known that he used both the Rick and the Jazz on Moving Pictures, but which one does he use on which song, and how can you tell?

Well, “how can you tell?” comes down to ear and familiarity with the sonic characteristics of the different instruments. The Rickenbacker tends to have very deep, round low end and a ringing high end, with a bit of a scoop in the middle, whereas the Jazz Bass has a lot more midrange growl. That’s oversimplifying it, but once you know the sound, it’s not too hard to tell. So, let’s investigate, track by track.

“Tom Sawyer”
This one is kind of tough, actually. I feel like I could make a good argument for either, but I think my impression of the whole thing is too muddled because I’ve heard so many subsequent live versions of this song — Rickenbacker on Exit Stage Left and then Jazz on the 2000s live albums, plus the 5 times I saw them live — and Geddy kind of has “his sound” regardless of which instrument he’s playing, that I just can’t tell. Fortunately I do not just need to use my ears. The band produced music videos for several songs on the album from the recording sessions at Le Studio, and we can easily see in the video that Geddy is playing a Rickenbacker.

Update (3/8/2023): Not so fast! Geddy himself says in this video that he used a Jazz Bass on “Tom Sawyer.”

“Red Barchetta”
This one, I am fairly certain, is a Rickenbacker, even though Geddy has the mids cranked up. It’s really that first note he hits at the beginning of the guitar solo around 3:20 that is the giveaway to me. There’s no Le Studio video for this one, and on Exit Stage Left he’s playing a Rick, but he plays a Rick on pretty much all of that, so no help there. Not that we really need it.

It’s kind of hard to nail down the bass tone here because there’s a bunch of chorus on it, but I am fairly confident it’s a Jazz Bass. It has that Jazz Bass growl (as opposed to, y’know, that Rickenbacker growl). Once again you kind of have to focus on the bass during the guitar solo, because when Geddy and Alex are playing together in unison their sounds blend too much. I just think I am hearing the snarl of a Jazz Bass bridge pickup here. My introduction to this song was the A Show of Hands video from the late ’80s, and there, of course, he’s playing a Wal.)

OK, in listening to this one I absolutely thought it was the Rickenbacker, but hey there’s another music video from the recording of the album, and Geddy is playing a Jazz Bass. Of course the video also cuts to some fake “live” footage that shows Geddy playing a Rick, but that’s from the A Farewell to Kings era, carefully edited to make it (sort of) look like they’re playing “Limelight.” So I think it’s safe to say we definitely have a Jazz here.

“The Camera Eye”
This one is definitely a Rickenbacker. Probably the easiest one to tell on the entire album. I think the verse that starts at 7:30 is where it’s easiest to tell. No question on this one. I was lucky enough to see the band on the Time Machine tour, where they played this album in its entirety, and of course at that point Geddy played it on a Jazz Bass. (Side note: No disrespect to Geddy, but you can tell he is really reaching for some of those high notes, 30 years later. Reaching, but generally hitting them!)

“Witch Hunt”
This song really doesn’t sound like any other in the band’s entire catalog. And the bass on it is unquestionably a Fender Jazz Bass. I think once again the thing that distinguishes it for me is the midrange. The Rickenbacker has a scoop in the midrange but the Jazz Bass seems to be pumping out consistently at all frequencies. (But if your eyes can handle it, you can check out Geddy playing it on a Steinberger on the Grace Under Pressure tour a few years later.)

“Vital Signs”
This one also definitely sounds like the Jazz Bass to me. I think around 1:20 is where it is very easy to pick out the bass tone. Fortunately this is another one with a Le Studio music video, so we can confirm it.

So there you have it. To put it another way, here’s how I break down the album:

Rickenbacker 4001: “Tom Sawyer,” “Red Barchetta,” “The Camera Eye.”
Fender Jazz Bass: “Tom Sawyer”, “YYZ”, “Limelight,” “Witch Hunt,” “Vital Signs.”

Update (3/10/2023): Over at Scott’s Bass Lessons, my fellow Minneapolitan Ian Martin Allison has his take on each track. Our only difference, once I corrected my take on “Tom Sawyer” two days ago, is “YYZ.” But I still say I think he’s playing a Jazz Bass on that one!

File under “Don’t Make Me Do This Myself”: a comparison of “TTW” (Through The Web) WYSIWYG text editors

I really don’t want to have to spend time thinking about this, but there’s such a dearth of useful information out there on this topic — based on my searches of Google and Bing, which return little more than uncritical lists of 40+ different TTW text editors, usually displayed on such hideously designed or woefully outdated websites that I discount their validity on sight — that I feel compelled to step in.

The question today is TTW (through-the-web) WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) text editors. If all of that sounds like 10 letters of gibberish to you, feel free to stop here. But if you’re a web developer, especially of the custom CMS variety, you’re certainly aware of the situation: how do you give users of your system a usable tool that allows them to easily edit site content without having to muck around directly with HTML? (That is, after all, kind of the whole point of a CMS.)

It’s something I’ve struggled with for over a decade. At one point I was actually rolling my own. But that’s a little more JavaScript than I care to deal with directly, and I long ago left the project of building a WYSIWYG editor to those who really love that kind of thing.

That puts me in a position where I need to select the best available option for a pre-built, drop-in WYSIWYG editor. Fortunately things have come a long way in this regard over the past decade. I’ve been — more or less happily — using TinyMCE to solve this particular problem for the past 3-plus years. But lately “less happily” has been outweighing “more,” and I’ve been exploring my options.

So far the only viable alternative I’ve found (or had recommended to me) is CKEditor. It’s the successor to one of the really early TTW WYSIWYG editors, FCKEditor, which I tried ages ago and never really liked.

Today I took a major step forward with cms34, my custom CMS, by setting up a configurable site option that allows users to select the editor of their choice: TinyMCE, CKEditor, or raw HTML. As inclined as I am to use raw HTML myself, I’m giving CKEditor a whirl for now.

So far I am inclined to say CKEditor is just the remedy I’ve been looking for to cure my TinyMCE malaise. As good as TinyMCE is, it just gets a little wonky sometimes. It especially seems to have trouble figuring out where to put closing tags when you’re switching between block elements, and especially when you’re inserting new content. I find myself often switching to the HTML pane to fix its quirks manually, but I can’t expect clients to do that.

My experience with CKEditor is still pretty limited at this point, but I have to say I really like how it’s set up for customizing the interface (which buttons to show, especially), in addition to its better handling of switching between elements than TinyMCE. They’re both pretty similar, actually, in how they’re configured, and in the overall user experience. But CKEditor has a little more polish, a little more flexibility. It almost feels like “TinyMCE done right,” although perhaps it’s too early for me to make such a proclamation.

So, that’s it for me, for now. The only two options in this realm that I really have any experience with. I know there are others out there. Some may even be good. Even better than TinyMCE or CKEditor. What’s your favorite?

What sort of person buys an Android phone?

This post will not be as sardonic and Apple-fanboi-smug as the title suggests… I promise. Well, maybe.

As a long-term Apple obsessive, there was never any question that I would fall into the iPhone camp, even when there was no real competition (and, seriously, there was no real competition until Android 2 and Windows Phone 7). But still, I wonder: what makes a person who is fresh to the world of smartphones choose Android over iPhone? This article on Macworld (reprinted… er, re”printed”… from Network World) raised the issue for me again. While it’s talking about a survey that shows most owners of “dumb” phones (a.k.a. “feature phones”) plan to replace them with another “dumb” phone, the author herself is an Android user, and the whole article skews in that direction.

Respondents to the survey cited high costs of data plans and the adequate capabilities of their feature phones as primary reasons not to switch, but then there’s this:

Others said they weren’t tech smart enough to have a smartphone, believing the apps and setup too complicated.

That really got me thinking, because it sounds like those users were imagining an Android phone in their future, not an iPhone. After all, one of the biggest selling points for iOS devices of all kinds (iPod touch, iPhone, iPad) is their ease of use, and specifically, the ease of purchasing, installing and using apps.

Much has been made of spurious comparisons between the iPhone/Android rivalry of today and the Mac/Windows rivalry of the ’90s. I don’t really find the comparison that relevant. While there are certainly some similarities between the “open” Android and the “open” Windows versus the “closed,” Apple-owned iOS and Mac OS, there are too many differences, both between Android and Windows, and between the Apple of the ’90s and the Apple of today: the specific nature of the licensing of Android compared to that of Windows, Apple’s status today as the world’s largest technology company and most iconic brand compared to its “niche player” status in the ’90s, etc.

So, I don’t really see Android as analogous to Windows in making the argument that history is destined to repeat itself and iOS will fall into a small — if highly profitable — niche. Apple’s in a much different place than it was when the desktop wars were raging, and Android presents a much different type of competition.

And yet, there are still some factors that remain relevant in the comparison, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, let’s consider the reasons a person upgrading from a feature phone to a smartphone would choose Android over iOS:

Carrier availability. More than anything else, the argument I’ve heard from people choosing Android phones over the iPhone was that the iPhone wasn’t available on their carrier of choice — usually their current carrier, and usually, specifically, Verizon. For the most part, people seem to like their carriers, and only switch if they’re having problems. And, from what I’ve heard, the only network that’s really had a lot of problems in recent years was, ironically, the only one that carried the iPhone in the US: AT&T.

There’s no question that the iPhone brought customers to AT&T, and little question that the iPhone is the only reason AT&T is still #2 in the US. Anecdotally, I myself switched to AT&T (from T-Mobile, which I was quite happy with) specifically to use the iPhone.

Now that the iPhone is coming to Verizon in a couple of weeks, it will be interesting to see how this changes things. But I am sure there are still customers who are loyal to Sprint or T-Mobile (or other carriers) who will choose an Android phone to avoid switching to either AT&T or Verizon. (And then of course there are the AT&T iPhone users who plan to switch to Verizon as soon as their contracts are up. But that’s for another post.)

Android is “open.” I say “open” in quotes because there has been plenty of discussion (just google “Android open site:daringfireball.net” for a taste; here: I did it for you) about how Android’s open licensing really just means it’s open for carriers to load up with crapware that can’t be uninstalled; or open to exploitation by hackers, viruses and privacy-invading stealth apps. But I’ll acknowledge that it is, also, open — to some extent — in the way its champions mean: users are not inside a “walled garden” as they are with Apple’s iOS. You can install apps freely, bypassing any officially sanctioned “app store”*, and you can tweak the system to your heart’s — or at least your carrier’s heart’s — content. But most users do not want to tweak their systems. They want something that just works, that they don’t have to think about, and that they are not afraid they’ll break. Which leads to…

Recommendations from “tech experts.” In other words, non-techie people asking their techie friends or relatives which phones they should buy. And here’s where we get into the territory where I see relevant analogies to the Mac vs. Windows era of the ’90s. Imagine a person who doesn’t know anything about smartphones but who is interested in entering this slightly daunting new world of technology. They have a friend or relative who they perceive as a tech expert — the person they’d call 15 years ago for help hooking up the free Lexmark printer that came with their new Gateway PC. Which they bought because they asked the same tech expert what kind of computer they should get. Today, that tech expert may be the main reason this person ends up with an Android phone.

The point here is: “tech experts” have different needs and different goals with technology devices than “average” users. They’re not afraid of getting “under the hood” of the system — in fact they want to do that — and they have little understanding or patience for people who don’t get technology. (Trust me, aside from my preference for Apple products, I’m there myself.) But both because of a general disdain for whichever technology they don’t use, along with a very real understanding that in making this recommendation they’re, willing or not, committing themselves to providing ongoing support, the tech experts are most likely to recommend whatever platform they’re most familiar with.

This is one of the reasons so many tech novices bought Windows computers the first time around, and I can see a very real possibility that this will be a factor in the growth of the Android platform, especially among new and technically inexperienced smartphone buyers.

But there are definitely some differences. First, I think Android represents an even more technologically remote territory for novices than did Windows in the ’90s. It’s more like the DMZ between Windows and desktop Linux. And aside from the staunchest supporters, few reclusive, bearded übergeeks are still trying to convince their grandmothers to run Linux on their home PCs. Second, technology isn’t as intimidating as it used to be. Computer use is far more widespread now, and getting into a smartphone after already learning (or, well, sort of learning) to use a computer is comparatively simple.

And finally, we come back to Apple. Apple is not in the position it was in back in the ’90s. For one, Mac market share has grown considerably, especially in the US, along with the growth of Apple as a general consumer technology brand. The success of first the iPod, and more recently the iPhone and iPad, has translated into success for the Mac. (Check Horace Dediu’s asymco blog if you need numbers and graphs to back that up.) Most importantly, more “tech experts” are now using the Mac than ever before. Part of this is because at its core, Mac OS X is Unix-based, just like Linux**. Which is a big part of why desktop Linux is doomed (again, a topic for another post). And as more “tech experts” become familiar with the Apple ecosystem, they embrace iOS devices along with the Mac, and they recommend iPhones to their friends and relatives who ask them for help.

So… where does that leave Android? I see all three of the above rationales for choosing Android over iPhone as diminishing in importance… some much more rapidly than others. I especially see the effects of #1 and #3 diminishing together, especially once the iPhone comes to Verizon next month. I’ll say it more explicitly, with extra emphasis: I expect Android to take a huge hit once the Verizon iPhone becomes available. I’d go so far as to predict that within a matter of months — certainly before the end of 2011 — the number of Verizon iPhone users will be as much as 10 times the number of Verizon Android users. Compound this (likely) huge and sudden impact with the ongoing effect of #3, and it paints a pretty clear picture for me. I think Verizon’s iPhone commercial says it all. The iPhone on Verizon is what people have really been anticipating all along, not an “iPhone killer” Android phone from Verizon. Verizon knows it.

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean Android will go away, nor should it. Ongoing competition from a strong alternative like Android is (probably) essential to keep Apple on top of their game. But I see two main (and increasingly marginal) reasons people will continue to choose Android over iPhone: either they are on Sprint or T-Mobile and don’t want to change, or because they are hardcore tinkerers who will never be satisfied with the kind of controlled operating environment Apple offers. But for everyone else, the choice is about to become a whole lot more obvious.

As Marco Arment insightfully observed, the primary choice has been iPhone vs. (Android on) Verizon. Now users will have more options, with iPhone and Android (and Windows Phone 7) available on both AT&T and Verizon. But I think the choice is mainly going to become AT&T vs. Verizon, with the implication being that it’s (probably) the iPhone on either network. And since Apple has ensured that the carriers can’t significantly differentiate the same device with apps or features, the way they do with other manufacturers’ phones, it’s really all going to come down to the network. AT&T is probably going to take almost as big of a hit as I anticipate Android taking.

That too is a topic for another post.

* Registered trademark by Apple pending.

** Yes, reclusive-bearded-übergeeks, I know neither Mac OS X nor Linux is technically Unix. But the difference is irrelevant to everyone but us.