Life is a Mystery

31 July 2011 . Comments Off

Tweets of the Week

27 July 2011 . Comments Off

A kitchen full of RAM and HD

I often use a kitchen metaphor for RAM (random access memory) and HD (hard disk) that might be comprehensible to mere mortals, at least if they cook. RAM and HD space are both “memory” of sorts in your computer, but what is the function of each?

In your kitchen you have both counter space and cabinets. Your cabinets and refrigerator are where you store things you use to make meals. Your counters are where you do the actual prep work. You might pull a bowl and spoon from some cabinets, along with some ingredients to mix from the fridge, you do the mixing and cooking, then you put the bowl and ingredients away again. You might even store the leftovers of what you cooked back in the fridge.

If you imagine a kitchen with tons of counter space and very few cabinets, that would present a certain challenge. You could have four cooks in the kitchen, but you might not have the space to store four bowls. On the other hand, you might have a kitchen with tons of cabinet space, but very little counter space. Even though the chef may have every gadget imaginable available to aid in the cooking, he or she would still be bumping elbows into the walls and finding it hard to prepare a large meal.

Each element has a role to play: cabinets are great for long term storage, counters are great for getting work done. The key to a functional kitchen lies in the proper balance.

In your computer, the hard disk (HD, or these days maybe the “SSD” solid state disk) plays the role of the cabinets, the long term storage. The RAM (or “memory”) plays the role of the counters. RAM is where the work gets done, if you don’t have enough, the work slows down. HD is where the tools used to do that work and the product of that work get stored, if you run out of HD then you can’t properly save the work you’ve done or add new gadgets to make that work easier.

The metaphor could be extended, maybe the stove is the CPU, but let’s not get into that. For now, just think: my cabinets are the hard drive, my counters are the memory. You need enough of both to get the job done. Running out of either will either slow down the work or make a mess of the kitchen (as the pots come crashing onto the floor).

Kitchen

27 July 2011 . Comments Off

Interact with Web Standards

Many months ago I had the privilege to be part of an OCLC Webinar on the use of HTML5 and CSS3 standards for web design. It was a great session by Christopher Schmitt and the slides are available online (HTML5 slides, CSS3 slides). But for me, the best part was that I also got a couple books by Schmitt out of the deal: the O’Reilly CSS3 Cookbook and a wonderful collaborative work called InterACT With Web Standards: A Holistic Approach to Web Design. It is this latter book I wanted to bring to your attention.

From time to time over the past few years I’ve had to teach courses in web standards and web design. I’ve found all the books on the topic wanting. Many are so basic as to be essentially wrong in the advice they give, others are too technical, and most are very narrowly scoped, so that it is hard to get a grasp on the incredibly broad set of skills one needs to effectively design for the web. InterACT With Web Standards is the first book I’ve found that combines a solid introduction to the way the web works with fantastic advice on how to leverage web standards toward your design goals.

This book helps the reader through all stages of web design. From internet fundamentals to writing for the web to site planning and considering content, the book builds a foundation of good, practical approaches to the task of conceiving a web site. The book offers a great grounding in HTML and CSS that is both legible to a newcomer and serves as a solid reference even for the seasoned pro. All those basic hints I look to the web for again and again (just what is the best way to build a two-column design, how do I style a list again, what accessibility issues should I watch out for) are covered with concise clarity.

The volume is well illustrated and printed in a format that easily stays open on a desk (thank you!). It is in every way (except, perhaps, its cover) a handsome edition.

Best of all, the whole text is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA agreement, so you can use it as you like in most educational settings. In fact, the authors and publisher have set up very nice website which includes sample chapters, all the code exercises, and a sample web project.

If you are teaching a course on web design or standards, consider InterACT With Web Standards as a potential backbone text. If you are someone who already builds websites, I bet you will still learn something from this text and certainly appreciate the wealth of information it puts at your fingertips even more effectively than Google.

Interact

24 July 2011 . Comments Off

Tweets of the Week

  • Gaga insists all photographs taken at her concerts belong to her? Really? http://j.mp/ngvGM2 Maybe she deserves her YouTube hot water. 2011-07-18
  • On the ground in DEN, missing MN, though not the heat! Alex tells me it is time to roar. #fb 2011-07-20

17 July 2011 . Comments Off

Tweets of the Week

14 July 2011 . Comments Off

Getting mugged

The state of Minnesota was just mugged. There were no negotiations, there was no compromise. Our legislative Republican majority did not make a single new proposal during two weeks of government shutdown. Our Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, on the other hand, came out with idea after idea seeking compromise and only got obstinate “no way” responses from the other side. To me this began to feel like a real crime, like a mugging. The criminals had no intent to compromise and no interest in their victim. Our only choices were to hand over what they wanted or get shot. As we all know, the sane thing to do when you are being mugged is to hand over the goods and hope the criminals don’t kill you. Today Governor Dayton handed over the goods, we’ll see how severe the damage is over the coming year.

While I am disappointed that the Governor had to eventually accede to the awful proposal the Republicans made before the shutdown began, I also don’t think there was much choice left. He gave in to a plan that even former Republican Governor Arnie Carlson says “represents some of the very worst” financial planning he’s ever seen. It is a plan that extends the financial gimmicks Minnesota has been playing to absurd levels, stealing even more money from already strapped schools by delaying state payments to school districts and giving away future tobacco payments in order to raise the revenue required to scrape together a budget. In order to keep a few more dollars in millionaire pockets, the tea party “conservatives” have left Minnesota in even worse fiscal health than ever. This is a disastrous budget that will keep Minnesota on its downward trend for years to come.

Still, the Governor did get a few concessions. Some terrible social policy language was stripped from the Republican proposal, a 15% state workforce cut was avoided, and a $500M bonding bill will accompany the budget outside the usual odd/even year cycle for this sort of thing in Minnesota. Dayton is not up for reelection until 2014, he’ll get at least one more chance to push for a budget that turns Minnesota around.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are busy claiming victory for a plan that will expose them for the hypocrites and liars they are. They claim to value fiscal responsibility and demand a budget of smoke and mirrors. They claim to value every voice, yet refuse to negotiate with the Governor in good faith while their state is in crisis around them. Today they got exactly what they wanted, and our job as Democrats will be to remind them that this was a Republican plan from beginning to end, forced on the state at virtual gunpoint.

Every single Minnesota House and Senate seat is up for election again in 2012, thanks to redistricting brought on by the recent census. This plan credited to the Republican right should give us the foundation we need to take back the Minnesota legislature in 2012 and give Dayton some partners he can work with.

Daytonbudget1

10 July 2011 . Comments Off

Tweets of the Week

3 July 2011 . Comments Off

Tweets of the Week

  • looking forward to a g+ invite (thanks @amyewest), the fuss reminds me of the wave intro, I hope this one goes better! 2011-06-30
Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org