Category Archives: General

Just stuff.

BBC News Redesign: Sneak Preview

Earlier on I received an email inviting me to take part in a survey on the forthcoming redesign of the BBC News web site. This allowed me to see a number of pages from the live site presented in the new layout, so naturally I made some screenshots – links on the thumbnails:

  • BBC News: redesigned front page
    Front Page
  • BBC News: redesigned story page
    Story Page

The primary change is obviously the shift from sidebar navigation to a horizontal list at the head of the page. This allows better use of the horizontal space, with much more prominent elements such as “Features & Analysis” to the side of the page.

The typography has also been improved, with larger headlines: these work well now we are no longer on 800 by 600 displays, but also work well on handheld devices like the iPhone, making it much easier to see the main headlines at a glance.

I think the font used in the navigation could be a bit larger, and an extra pixel or two wouldn’t come amiss on the secondary links (for example, “End-of-life dilemmas GPs face” on the lead story) but overall it promises to be a welcome change.

There will be other changes before the site goes live, and I haven’t any idea when that will be. Included in the survey was a mock-up of the intended complete home page design, but the differences were minimal.

I seem to have ended up with a cookie which causes me to still see many pages in the new layout, but I don’t know how long that will last. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished version of the entire site (the new video page looks good in the mock-up), but hopefully my cookie will stick around until then so I can continue to get the benefit of this nice redesign on the home and story pages.

(Hopefully the BBC won’t be too cross with me for leaking this.)

Fix After Security Update 2009-001 Bricked My MacBook

This afternoon I finally got around to letting Software Update install the OS X Security Update 2009-001 for Tiger on my MacBook.

Being an idiot, I didn’t do a backup first. When the system restarted, it got to the grey screen with the Apple logo and the spinning gear, where it remained… for over half an hour.

At this point I gave up and switched over to my PowerMac, where an intensive Google session commenced. There appear to be a number of people encountering this or similar problems, but various suggested solutions didn’t work.

I was able to mount the MacBook on the PowerMac in target disk mode (which somebody on this Apple Support Discussions thread wrongly claims is impossible) and followed some of the steps listed at MacFixIt’s “Startup fails (particularly after a system or security update); solving” tutorial, specifically, deleting assorted cached OS files.

However, the MacBook still wouldn’t start, not even in Safe Mode.

So I then downloaded the standalone installer for the update from Apple. Despite being an Intel update, this ran on the PowerMac, and detected that the FireWire drive was a bootable Intel OS X installation. It installed successfully, and having ejected the MacBook drive, I restarted, holding down the Shift key to reboot in Safe Mode.

Bingo! The MacBook booted up. I restarted again, and it booted normally.

Panic over, and time to do a backup.

Hopefully this solution will prove helpful to anybody in the same situation.

Why Can’t Microsoft Just Use HTTP Like Everybody Else?

A few moments ago I was following a link from Google to Raymond Chen’s excellent MSDN blog The Old New Thing. As has happened to me before, I ended up getting redirected to an ASP.NET error page at a totally different URL, telling me that the site was “unable to service my request.”
Continue reading Why Can’t Microsoft Just Use HTTP Like Everybody Else?

Why “left: -9999px;” is Better For Accessibility Than “display: none;”

Update: Thierry Koblentz points out in the comments that either technique may be appropriate, depending on circumstances. I mention this in the last paragraph, but just to be clear, there should have been a “usually” or “often” or some such word in front of the “better” of the title. That, or a different title.

Update 2, December 2008: It is now accepted that it is better to use top: -9999px;, as using left: would cause a scroll bar on a page with right-to-left text.

A recurring question on various mailing lists such as the Web Standards Group discussion list is “How can I hide content but still have it accessible?” This is usually asked in the context of image replacement techniques, where one might for example wish to display a heading in a fancy typeface, but still have the content accessible to users of assistive technologies such as screen reading software.
Continue reading Why “left: -9999px;” is Better For Accessibility Than “display: none;”