Dvorak’s bugged by CSS

I’m not a religious reader of John Dvorak. I don’t consider him a web developer, so when he posts articles like this one blaming the standards community for failing to do what it promised to do, I can’t help feeling that he’s misdirected. But is he?

The problems he mentions, mostly how instructions cascade, are nothing new to web developers who have been working with CSS for a while. I almost want to say he should be putting the blame on browsers, but that’s not his issue. The issue is that he’s new to CSS and I would bet that even if he were only using one browser, he’d still have his issues. I think if he thought of it more like applying styles in Word or something, he’d find it easier to understand.

Coincidentally, today Zeldman posted An Angry Fix which comments on recent departures from the W3C, which is supposed to be leading the CSS standards effort but is failing in some respects. I agree with him and hope the W3C can correct its course. The most interesting part was when Zeldman mentions that develpors may start looking elsewhere… Microformats.

And why not? Microformats adhere to standards, but they are higher level. Anyone able to understand XML data should be able to understand a microformat. And just as it takes someone with more knowledge to write an XSD template for an XML file, we’d expect someone with more knowledge to write a CSS file for a microformat. Maybe by adding a LayoutFormats or MacroFormats we’d eventually not have a use for the W3C. The key is for developers to contribute.

While I see the benefits of microformats, I haven’t been a big user of them. I’m definitely going to pay closer attention now.

Dish Networks, PLEASE stop calling me!

[UPDATE: 1 month later. After adding my number to the Do Not Call registry, I received a few calls and then they completely disappear. I guess the list works! Hopefully now that I said that, I won’t start getting calls again. ]

[UPDATE: You can track my status with this here.]

It’s been a number of months since I’ve been working from my home office once again. I’m pretty productive when I’m left alone, but this time around there’s one distraction that’s becoming more and more of a nuisance.

Before I get into this, I do have Caller ID and can generally tell it’s a telemarketer. However, instead of not answering the phone, it has become almost a personal quest to get them to stop calling me.

Please make it stop!

Every single day, one to three times, I get a call from Dish Networks trying to get me to switch. Almost all the time, it’s an automated message with some guy named Jerry telling me about this awesome deal to press ‘1’ to speak to a sales rep. The first time I got mad enough to give a rep an earful, I press ‘1’ and was then given an option to press ‘8’ to get my name of the list. I happily did this.

I thought they would respect my wishes. They did not. Assuming it may take a little while to go through their system, I just kept opting out every time I got a call.

The first rep

Then I actually got a salesrep on the phone! I told her in a calm tone that due to the excessive number of calls I get from Dish Networks that I would never subscribe to their service and to please add me to their do not call list. She appologized and said she was placing my name on the do not call list.

The next rep

I kept getting the calls and a few weeks later I got another call from a live rep. I went through the same routine again. I tried to stay as calm as I could since I’m at a point with Dish that I get enraged when I get one of these calls. I know, though, that yelling on the phone’s not going to do me any good. Once again, I got an apology and this time a guarantee that I would stop receiving calls.

One more time

Today, I got another one and I felt like punching the wall. It was another recording, this time it was a female voice, but it was the same exact message that Jerry had from before. I hit ‘1’ to talk to a rep and immediately asked for a manager, who once again, apologized and guaranteed me they’d remove me from their list.

I hate Dish Networks

I think just hearing about them will get me angry for a while and I’m glad I can vent about it here. From here on out, I plan to keep a log of the calls, because I’m not convinced they’ve stopped.

Keep up with your Rails tests

I haven’t updated my progress on the project I’ve been working on in a while. This is somewhat due to simply getting caught up in the development of it. I’ve also been working the past few weeks on creating the CSS/HTML based on the delivered design. Here’s two things I’ve learned about my experience since last time…

Don’t forget about running your tests

While I think I did a good job creating unit tests, I definitely let my functional tests slide. I have also not been religiously running my existing tests, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that a number of them were failing when I ran them again recently. As I fix them up, I’ll be keeping track of where they would have helped me out.

One thing I do know is where I need to have functional tests. I’m not nearly as concerned with pages which do nothing but display information, mostly ones where it would change, or redirect you based on security.

IE7 is much easier to style than IE6, but still not quite as good

Okay, This isn’t really Ruby on Rails specific. This assumes you create styles like I do. Create your CSS to work in Firefox and Safari and then get it to work in IE. I did run into some IE7 weirdness, but overall, there will be far less tweaks with it than you’d have with IE6. I created separate stylesheets with IE6 and IE7 fixes and the IE7 one is roughly 80% smaller than the one for IE6.

Agile Web Development 2nd Edition

If you’ve got the first edition of this book or about to buy it to get yourself started with Ruby on Rails, don’t buy it. The 2nd edition is now available in a beta form and it’s well worth it. The most recent additions to Rails really the original print largely obsolete. Yes, that much has changed.

Getting a little off track with my project

I got to a point where I think I’m getting a little off track with my Rails project. In trying to make sure everything’s perfect along the way, I think I’ve lost sight of the rapid development part of it all. When building my models, I wrote out a lot of tests to make sure things were working. While I am glad I did that, it isn’t the way to get the application in a usable state right away.

I’m very glad I did write the unit tests, since I’ve already had to make a change where the tests were correct but my models stopped working. Running the unit tests helped me fix the problems quickly.

As I proceed to build the controllers, I’m doing what I can to get the pages to work navigationally so people can login and click around the site and see at least static content. I’ll go back in and add actual logic, including funtional tests, as I code the details.

It just dawned on me that I’ve been doing a lot of work and my co-workers haven’t been able to actually see the site. This is Ruby on Rails, so I figured that was backwards. I guess I’m still getting used to it all.

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