shaunrashid.com

Random thoughts of a digital web weaver

Normalize (CSS) No More.

Like many web developers, I have used a reset/normalize style sheet in a variety of projects with the intention of having a common starting point for all browsers when it comes to styling CSS. It’s been useful. It works great for setting a baseline to create web pages that are pixel-perfect reproductions of mockups from designs.

However, as I work with building responsive websites where the widening array of devices has changed the way that we design websites, I have fallen back to the age-old statement that answers the question of whether a website needs to look exactly the same in every browser. With the answer to that question, I have found that the reset/normalize stylesheet has become unnecessary.

As a designer, I have come to accept that there may be minor differences from browser to browser. If I can accept that my sites will look different (sometimes significantly) on different devices, there is no reason to get upset if my site does not look the same pixel-for-pixel in different browsers.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t make adjustments to things like margins and padding on a paragraph or list. I choose to embrace the defaults a browser gives me and work off of them instead of stripping them out and starting from scratch every time. I find that this approach makes my code cleaner and more robust without adding any extra overhead.

 

Diabetes Doesn’t Mean I Can’t Eat Sugar

Diabetes is basically a disease that causes high blood sugar levels (which can be fatal if high enough) because your body is unable to produce or use insulin in order to properly regulate glucose in your body.

There are two types of diabetes, aptly defined as Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is where the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas (which produces insulin) and destroys it. Because the pancreas no longer produces insulin, it needs to be administered through external means such as injection or an insulin pump. Proper diet and lifestyle changes makes it much easier to deal with blood sugar levels but a type 1 diabetic would still need to take insulin injections or use the pump for the rest of their life.

Type 2 diabetes is where the body either doesn’t produce enough or the body has developed a resistance to the insulin which interferes with the body’s ability to regulate glucose. This is by far the most common form of the disease and is most often linked to obesity/bad diet habits as the cause. People who have had type 2 diabetes in their family history are at higher risk of becoming type 2 diabetics themselves. For type 2 diabetics, it is possible to completely manage the disease through proper diet and lifestyle changes but it may required the assistance of oral medications and insulin.

In both cases, having diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’t eat sugar. It means that you have to be a bit more careful about your diet and lifestyle. By putting a little effort into learning about nutrition (particularly about glucose and carbohydrates), and cleaning up your diet, you dramatically improve your chances of living a long, healthy life.

Links:

Canadian Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.ca/
American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/

Mental Recharge

A little while ago, I was afforded the opportunity to take a day away from the office and volunteer at a warehouse for Northwest Harvest, the only non-profit state-wide food bank distributor in Washington state. In addition for volunteering for a good cause, it was a great way to get rid of some mental fatigue that’s been creeping.

We spent the day parcelling and packing rice to send to food banks. It was a rewarding experience that allowed me to meet some great people and have a good time. It also reminded me that once in awhile, I should raise my head up from the web development world and do something completely different.

It’s easy to think that taking a day away from our work will reduce our productivity but most of the time, the best way to increase our productivity is to shift our brains into a lower gear for a short period of time to give ourselves a chance to recharge.

NAICS Industry Code for Web Development

If you’re a Canadian web developer that works as a freelancer (or does a few freelancing gigs on the side), you may be in the process of doing your taxes for your business.

On the T2125 – Statement of Business or Professional Activities tax form there is a field for “Industry Code” that you’ll need to fill in. For the 2012 tax season, that code is 541514. If you want more information on the code, you can visit this NAICS page on the Stats Can website.

SVG: Set the right MIME type!

As the next part of my redesign, I created an SVG version of my pretty logo so that I could take advantage of the file format for multi-device use. Everything looked good locally so I pushed the image and code live… only to find out that a) I was getting scrollbars on the <embed> element and b) Firefox was asking for a plugin!

I spent quite a bit of time looking through the HTML, CSS, and SVG code trying to find out what was wrong and searching the Internet came up with a lot older posts regarding a Webkit height miscalculation bug. Since that issue had been fixed and I was having the same problem in Firefox, that wasn’t the issue.

Turns out the issue lay with my web hosting provider. They didn’t have the proper MIME-type set up for SVG images. This came as a surprise to me as I assumed they would have this in place but at least I had access to the .htaccess file. With the following two lines and a file upload, I was off to the races with my responsive SVG logo!

AddType image/svg+xml svg svgz
AddEncoding gzip svgz

So if you come across issues where your SVG isn’t rendering on the server, check to see that the MIME-type is properly set up.

Taking the Plunge

Ever since I read Jen Simmons’ post about sitting down and launching her website in one night, I have been determined to do the same. So here is it. I have taken the plunge, scrapped everything that I did before, and put together a very simple WordPress template. It’s probably more stupid looking and has more stupid HTML than Jen’s site (just kidding, Jen. I like your site a lot) but it’s here. It’s without the SVG logo that for some reason works locally but not on the server (which I will figure out eventually) but I’ve launched the minimum shippable product and now, as Jeffrey Zeldman states as part of his 10 commandments of web design (see An Event Apart), it’s time to iterate.

I like Apple Maps

Ever since the new iPhone was released the Internet has been flooded with harsh criticism and hate for the new Apple Maps. It’s as though the world thinks there is a huge conspiracy by Apple to feed them bad directions so that people end up in the middle of nowhere or on a one way trip to Mars. For me, the backlash is just another example of how society has become impatient and hinges on instant gratification.

Personally, I like the new Apple Maps. I have used it a few times in the Seattle area and the mapping seems accurate so far. The “3D” view looks pretty slick and the graphical aspects are great as well. Having the turn-by-turn navigation has by far been the biggest improvement and if the sticking point between Google and Apple was that Google was unwilling to license their turn-by-turn technology then I am all for Apple going in their own direction as that feature was sorely missing from previous iOS versions.

By no means do I think that the new Apple Maps is perfect. I’m sure there are a ton of things that they need to fix. But I also believe that as they receive more feedback and data that the app will improve (just like Google Maps has improved over time). It is just a matter of being patient and giving Apple time to make those improvements. However, in today’s society where everyone is concerned with getting things “now”, being patient seems to be easier said than done.

No Phishing!

There’s a reason that websites that deal with monetary transactions provide warnings about phishing scams. They happen all the time and the people that commit these crimes are good at it.

I was posting some items up on Kijiji to sell before my move to Seattle, one of which was my storage bed (yes, cheap plug). I received a response from a buyer who said that they would purchase my bed through a PayPal transaction.

Sounds good so far, right?

I thought so too. So I agreed. The next email I got asked for my info and came with an odd request. Apparently the purchaser would get a shipping company to pick up the bed but his credit card wasn’t working so he wanted to send me the money for the shipping cost and have me send a Western Union transfer to the shipping company.

I was suspicious but I thought that if the money came through PayPal then I could use those funds for the shipping. So once again I agreed. What I got next was a set of emails from PayPal telling me that the money was being transferred to my account but it was on hold pending the Western Union transfer.

At a glance the email looked legit. It had the right text, confirmation numbers, the logos, and all the rest. It had me guessing for a second but the whole situation had alarm bells ringing in my head.

A quick check of my PayPal account revealed that there were no transactions, pending or otherwise and money was not transferred to my account. Secondly, a closer look at the email revealed that it didn’t come from PayPal but from “enquiry@emailaccount.com”. At this point I knew it was fraud. I decided to do one last check. I popped the address for the Western Union transfer into Google Maps which led me to a nice residential street in the UK. Suffice it to say, that was the end of the line for me.

Moral of the story, be careful of phishing scams! They’re out there and the people behind them are pretty smart. I consider myself pretty aware of online dangers and they got me to the point where they can spam my email now.

Here are a few tips relating to my experience:

  • If anyone wants to send you money but depends on you to complete another transaction for it (i.e. Western Union), decline the offer.
  • Don’t use Western Union for purchases/transactions. It’s great for money transfers to people you know but there is no fraud protection!
  • Always check the full email address on emails regarding accounts or transactions. Don’t just rely on the name! I can’t stress this one enough. In my case, the name said service@intl.paypal.com but the actual address was enquiry@emailaccount.com
  • If you’re using PayPal, check your account if you get an email saying that there was a transfer/transaction. There should be some record of it in your account. Just don’t click on any links in the email to do it!
  • Trust No One. Well, at the very least be vigilant and pay close attention.

There are many reputable companies out there on the web but there are also a lot of people looking to use those reputations to scam you out of your money. Be careful!