Random Life Update

I finally broke down and applied for a credit card last weekend. The prospect of better fraud protection and cash back was just too tempting. I’m now eagerly awaiting for it to arrive in the mail.

Today and next week I have off of work. I needed to use up some vacation time before May or I’d lose it. I figured I’d take off this time since it’s public school vacation week, and thus my Mom and wife have it off as well. My dad is also taking it off. So, we may go out to the Berkshires sometime in the middle of next week, if the weather’s good.

Today, the electrician came and finally finished off the stuff that he had yet to do on our house. We now have a light at the end of our driveway lighting up the driveway and yard. Our house feels much more complete now.

Jessi also planted lots of stuff today.

Tomorrow, I run my first tournament at WPI that I’ve run in a long time. It promises to be the biggest one yet, partly since the WPI SFS got funding to subsidize the cost.

Random Rambling/Storytelling: Images as links

Once upon a time, in the days of yore, shortly before the Punic wars and just after the invention of water, the World Wide Web was just text. It languished until the popularity of Mosaic, which allowed graphics on this medium. Now, the entire point of the web as it first existed was basically hyperlinks, allowing one to jump from one topic to another, and not really needing to worry about which server one was on at the time.

Now, hyperlinks of text were indicated separately, generally with blue text and an underline, which allowed for the user to easily see which text was hyperlinked and which text wasn’t.

However, now that there were images as well, there also needed to be a way for users to tell whether an image was a hyperlink. So, images that were hyperlinks had a blue border around them, easily indicating that they were clickable.

But, once images were involved, one started having artists and designers caring about the look of a page. And those blue borders just looked awful. So, they made sure to override the browser explicitly and tell it to not place that border there.

Web users nowadays might not even realize that those borders would be there unless they’ve done web development. But by default in IE at least, an image that’s a hyperlink has that blue border around it, and you have to explicitly ask for it to be removed when coding a page.

And so, of course, every web site on the planet pretty much does so, just so that that blue border doesn’t show up, since it ruins the design of the page.

Now, this has the problem that people can no longer easily tell which images are hyperlinks and which images are just plain images. Often, navigation (in the form of hyperlinks) is done through a bunch of images, since images are attractive and can often present information better than plain text can. So, people click on images, expecting them to be links, since many images are in fact links.

Which leaves me, the poor web interface designer, in the position of trying to figure out how to communicate information to users that is best depicted graphically, while at the same time not confusing them that when they click on it, it doesn’t do anything.

The story of the Java stopwatch

In D Term of 2000, during my senior year at the Academy in CS 2136 (Paradigms of Computation), I wrote a Java stopwatch for a homework assignment. It wasn’t an especially wonderful stopwatch I didn’t think; it just met the extra-credit spec and had a lap counter. So, my program assignment was up on my web site at WPI for the years I was there. Every once in a while, like every 9–18 months, I’d get an email from a random person letting me know how much they liked my stopwatch. One of them was even from some guy at Intel who was using my stopwatch to help him build something there. At one point, I was even the first hit on Google for “java stopwatch”, which was quite a surprise.

So ever since I left WPI it hasn’t been up, so I figured I’d put it back up on my personal site and see if it gets a lot of use again.

Behold, the Java stopwatch.

<rant>Daylight Saving Time

(Warning: quickly put together and not proofread)
I know that I’m not the first one to say this, but Daylight Savings Time just seems to me like a really dumb idea. Starting next year, Congress has decreed to make DST even longer by a month, leaving Standard time only around for like 4 months of the year, and requiring countless software & firmware patches. I just don’t get it. If people need an hour more of daylight, why not just get up an hour earlier? Why do we need to set the clocks? There’s just some sort of inherent want for “noon” to be “sun overhead”, and then tricking ourselves to make noon at a different time so that we have an extra hour of daylight? Huh? If this tricking ourselves actually saves energy, why not just be at UTC-4 instead of UTC-5 year-round?

And especially in today’s world where interactions around the world are commonplace, why not just stick with UTC, and I’ll wake up at 10:00 and go to bed at 02:00?

All this crazy stuff just in the name of backwards compatibility.