Synook

Portfolio: ESSA website

The latest website I have been working on is a new WordPress blog (in fact, the first WP theme I have made) for my good friends over at the Economics Student Society of Australia, a new club at the University of Melbourne (where I study and work).

The website based on WordPress, however a complex theme had to be developed for their needs, as they wanted many different custom pages not normally exposed by the WordPress engine. This is evident on the home page, where the posts are organised in an irregular fashion, and there is a listing of the categories on the site.

Anyway, check out the site at http://economicstudents.com/, and if you have any comments just post below.

The only iOS games I play (more or less)

There are millions of different iOS games (or so it seems), and many of them are of high quality and original concept. Not many, however, have held my attention for more than a few days — perhaps they were fun during that time, but ultimately the gameplay grew old, the graphics too familiar, and I moved on to look at other things. A few, however, have become classics for me, that I play again and again, no matter how old they are (though most in this list aren’t particularly old). These games to me are all innovative, with interesting gameplay, but are also very polished, and are truly enjoyable just to experience, even if one is not very good at playing them. I have listed some of these few below.

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Weather in Melbourne

The current season in Melbourne is summer. On Tuesday, the maximum temperature was 20 degrees (centigrade). Today it was 23. However, by Saturday it will apparently have risen to 31 before falling to 20 again next Monday. This city is very inconsistent – we truly do have four seasons in a day.

Apparently the reason why our weather is so variable is because we are stuck between the cold Southern Ocean  to the south, and the central deserts of Australia to the North. If the wind blows from the South, then we are basically in the middle of the ocean, with cold, wet wind and lots of rain. If it blow from the North, then we are in the desert, and get hot, dry wind (but no sand like Sydney gets, fortunately). In fact, when the weather is hot, people always speak about waiting for the “cool change” — for the wind direction to change.

Anyway, I’m feeling particularly cold at the moment, so I thought I’d write this in warning, in case any of my non-Melbourne readers were thinking of coming. Bring your jackets in summer, and your swimming gear in winter! Ok, maybe it doesn’t get that warm in winter.

The last post

As you have probably noticed, this blog has been a bit dead recently (or for a year). There are many reasons for this, but primarily, my interests have changed, and no longer feel like writing exclusively about web development. However, I still wanted a blog, and therefore I am happy to announce that I have set up new one, at synook.net. This new blog will be less focused on web development, and I will probably write freely about whatever comes to mind. Anyway, if you enjoyed this blog, I’m sure you will like my new one as well, and I encourage you to check it out. Goodbye! And hello.

WordPress v. my bespoke blog system

As you may recall, my previous blog was run on a bespoke PHP application designed from scratch by myself. This blog is run on WordPress, and I think I’ll enjoy blogging much more because of it.

Firstly, I will say, designing a blogging system from scratch was, for me at least, fun! I got to know a lot about my chosen environment (PHP/MySQL), and learnt many things. The design decisions I had to make along the way also forced me to think carefully about what concepts were essential to a blog system, and which ones were not. And it was a great experiment — to be free from the constraints of another system, and to have complete control (or so I thought) over every aspect of the website. I thought it would be great.

However, despite how intensively I coded the system, there were many issues that persisted with it for a long time, and some have not been fixed even until now. Two issues in particular were particularly irritating — the comment moderation system, despite the integration of Akismet, was never very good at picking up spam, which caused me to have to escrow all comments, taking up a lot of my time. The “approve” button also didn’t work properly, approving all comments instead of just the targeted one. I could have fixed this easily, but in the end just couldn’t be bothered.

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Adventures in responsive design

This site is but a few days old, and I am already trying to improve the design. Oh well. The first thing on my site improvement agenda is to try to make the design “responsive”. Basically, a responsive web design is one that is able to adapt, or respond, to different browsing environments, namely, different screen resolutions (and to an extent, different pixel densities, but more on that later). This is of course, great, since then even people with really small screens can still view the site, and perhaps most importantly it negates the need for a dedicated mobile version.

The basic way to make a web design responsive is to use CSS to specify certain styles that only apply at different screen resolutions, through the use of the @media directive:

@media screen and (max-width: 980px) { }

Using these “conditional” selectors, if you like, it is possible to make elements change width or font-size, or hide themselves altogether, without the need for JavaScript. Using these selectors is quite easy: I found the hard part was designing the markup of the pages so that they could be modified easily using CSS. For example, I wanted the sidebar to become a footer at low widths (as the links on the sidebar are secondary, the breadcrumbs providing the primary navigation). However, this meant I had to ensure that the sidebar HTML was entirely after the markup of the main content.

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Thoughts on the Semantic Web

Recently, as part of my work, I have been working on an installation of the VIVO Semantic Web application. As such, I have been investigating and trying to understand what exactly the Semantic Web is. And, for some reason, I find it very exciting.

The Semantic Web has been hailed as the successor to the current world wide web (“web”) as we know it. Currently, what exists is a “document web”, where information on pages is described through prose and images, and concepts are informally linked together through hyperlinks. This web has served us well for many years, and has enabled the sharing of information on an unprecedented scale. As it stands, however, the web is very hard for computers to understand (as computers can’t read very well). Thus, it is left up to humans to try to link all the disparate bits of knowledge available on the web together into whatever they are trying to find out. Wouldn’t it be great, though, if this could all be done in an automatic fashion?

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A new day/month/year, a new blog

Hello everyone, and welcome to my new blog. Following the death (or at least abandonment) of my last blog, I have decided to start again. The last time I wrote a blog, it was about pertinent issues in the web development world, or at least interesting tidbits that I had discovered and wanted to share. As my interests changed, however, my will to actively investigate and write about such things waned, and with it went the blog — it is more or less a year since I last posted something.

My wish to write, however, remains unabated, and there are many things I find of interest in the world, and in the things that happen around me, that I may want to write about, or at least ramble. Thus, this blog will be more personal in nature, or at least not so strictly defined in terms of matter. Whatever I find noteworthy, controversial, or thought-provoking, I will try to write about, and I’ll of course attach a probably completely unrelated image for the visual effect.

No, I kid. The main reason I want to start a blog is because otherwise this WordPress theme I just designed would have no use, and would probably never see the light of day. WordPress is great, isn’t it!

Perhaps I kid again. I simply wish to write about some things, some times, and perhaps this blog is a good place to do so. This site will not be authoritative, focused, or even particularly informative. But it will contain something. Sound like a good idea?

W3Fools - a foolish attack on W3Schools.com

W3Schools.com is a tutorial site hosting material on several web technologies. It is very popular, and almost always appears close to the top for relevant web searches. Recently, however, a group of developers have decided that the innacuracies they see on the site are too much, and have created another website, W3Fools.com, in retaliation.

Disclosure: I am a moderator on the official W3Schools Forums. However, I have no vested interest or control over the content on the w3schools.com domain.

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Some recommended Android applications

So yes, a while ago I got a Samsung Galaxy S phone, which runs Android. My experience so far has been quite good, though for some reason the firmware specific to the Galaxy S has quite a few bugs. Hopefully the 2.2 update, coming out soon, will fix all that. Anyway, of course I installed a lot of applications, and here are some of the ones I would recommend. Many of these have been reviewed and recommended numerous times, but some of them are less well-known, but still very useful.

All of the following applications are free, except for Wolfram|Alpha. LauncherPro, Astrid and Autokiller also have paid versions or extensions with more features.

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