Wrestling with a new blog template

I’m wrestling with a new blog template at the moment. It’s kind of mostly working…ish, but there are still a few little issues, such as the main content doesn’t line up with the page header quite right.

But once the quirks have been fixed, the site should look better, particularly on mobile devices such as smart phones and iPads.

It also has a random picture at the top, just for a little variety.

Comments, or issues you might see most welcome! If you see a problem, please let me know the device, browser and version.

One conclusion: I find CSS to be a little like black magic.

Update 16/1/2014: Some more tweaks thanks to feedback. Have made the page wider, allowing bigger images (will now use 800 width Flickr setting). Memo to self: add class=”postpic” to avoid them going out of proportion when seen on smaller screens.

Stupid web site stuff they could fix easily

(This could have gone to Geek Rant, but it’s not overly technical…)

Some stupid web site stuff, that would be easy to fix/avoid, that bugs me:

When you click to watch an online video, and the player shows you the video advert, but then stops working when it comes to play the actual thing you wanted to watch. (The Age and Channel 7′s site seem to do this to me a lot of the time.)

When you click to zoom on a picture, and it pops up another copy of the picture that’s the same size (or even smaller).

When the site is all written in Flash or some other method that makes it look like crap or not appear at all on some devices such as mobiles, or non-Internet Explorer browsers (despite most other sites working fine) and also gives it non-standard navigation such as scroll bars, and causes it not to be indexed by search engines. (Example: Game Traders)

Articles on a site that have no URL of their own so you can’t share/tweet/cite them properly. (Example: the “Myki tips” article currently on the Myki web site)

404 pages that wipe out the URL you were trying to get to, so you can’t see what you got wrong. (There’s no reason for this. It’s perfectly possible to set up a web site with an informative 404 page that doesn’t remove the URL.)

Clicking on a link that goes to another page on the same site, and it opens in a new window… repeatedly, as you navigate around the one site.

Search field that wisely shows you what you searched for when you see the results, but then clears itself when you go click on it to change it slightly and search again. (Example: Lasoo)

A gallery of photos where it claims you’re on Picture 9 of 10, but (every time) the 10th/last page turns out to be an ad for something else. (Example: Any News Limited photo gallery)

What bugs you?

Server hiccup

If you can see this, then (hopefully) things are getting back to normal.

A server move was in the offing, but part of it happened sooner than I thought, effectively taking the site offline, and I didn’t have time earlier to fix it. Long story.

Please leave a comment if you see any more weirdness.

By the way, may I recommend FreeDNS if you need to temporarily point a domain to somewhere other than where your usual hosting ISP is pointing it.

Retired

The other day I retired one of my oldest web pages, an FAQ on Melbourne public transport.

It started life (I think around 1993, before the Web was around) as a Usenet FAQ for the misc.transport.urban-transit group.

In 1994 it was posted (with an incomplete attempt to convert it to HTML) on Railpage — where unfortunately it is still online, as I haven’t been able to find someone who can remove it.

When I wrote it, there was little information available online about public transport. But from about the late-90s, official sources of information on public transport became more prevalent online (and in the last few years, more accurate and useful), so now keeping a separate FAQ is largely pointless, and potentially confusing, so I’ve taken it offline, though it lives-on in the Internet Archive.

The page had a slightly awkward format (designed by someone on the Usenet group) to allow better comparisons between cities, but (like this old video) some of the detail means it is something of a time capsule.

Fare procedures: Tram: pay conductor (or show valid ticket). On Z class trams, when paying, place your money in the tray in front of the conductor. On driver only trams, pay the driver. Exact change is not required, although large notes may not be accepted. Keep your ticket as proof of payment until you alight.

Here, just for laughs, is the old FAQ’s rail map (remember, it was originally posted on Usenet, which takes plain text only).

MELBOURNE METROPOLITAN TRAIN SYSTEM
-----------------------------------
                                                 ZONE 2      .
                                  *Epping                    .
                    ZONE 2        |            *Hurstbridge  .     ZONE 3
        Broad- *             .....|.......    /               .
        meadows|    *Upfield.     |  ________*Eltham           .
               | ...|......       | /      .                   .
ZONE 2        .|.   |     ZONE 1  |/        ..                 .   *Lilydale
             .  \   |             *Clifton    ..               .  /
  St Albans* .   \  | Nth         |Hill         ..Box Hill     . /
           .\     \ | Melb        |               ..    *_______*Ringwood
         .   \__*__\_\_*___*_*_   |       Camberwell.  /       . \
      Footscray/         | 3 4 |  |           *_______/        .  \
        .     |         2*    5*  |Richmond  /   \   .  ZONE 2  .  \
        ______*Newport    \_*__|_/__*______*/     |  .          .   *Belgrave
       /.     |             1        \Burnley\    *Alamein     .
      /  .    *  ~~~~~~~~            |\       \    ..         .
     *    . Williamstown~~   ZONE 1  | \       \______*Glen Waverley
Werribee      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~        |  \       .           .
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~     |   *Caulfield       ..
       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   |   |\   .         ..
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~..|...|.\.. ZONE 2 ..
  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Sandringham*   |  \    .....       ZONE 3
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~    |  .\...
CITY LOOP~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~...|..  *Dandenong
1 Flinders St~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ |     \
2 Spencer St~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Frankston*      \
3 Flagstaff~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ |       *Pakenham
4 Museum~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~    |
5 Parliament~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Stony Point*

     \___ Rail lines
     __*_ Major stations
     .... Fare zone boundaries; overlaps generally apply over 2-3 stations
     ~~~~ Port Phillip Bay

The Age’s new home page

This is what appeared on The Age’s home page this morning (with my additions).

TheAge.com.au new home page

They explained that there’s a new video tab, which you’ll see when the lead story is best told in video.

Eh? How is Ultimate Fighting in any way to be regarded as the lead story? Unless Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott jumped in the ring.

And why is a pr0n star (I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess it’s about Tiger Woods; I didn’t click on it) a related story to anything on that page?

What I do like is that they’ve split the Victoria and National stories apart, though as-of lunchtime some stories appear to be in the wrong spots — I doubt for instance that today’s Myki story has much national significance.

The Today’s Paper link reflects what’s in the print edition for the day, which is probably a good idea. I like the way it gives more prominence to the PDF copy of the front page.

And I wonder if this declaration is laying down the gauntlet to News Ltd, who have said in the past they’d be moving to a paid content model: But some things haven’t changed. We still bring you the latest breaking news as it happens, free, all day every day, in words, pictures and video.

Anyway, despite the teething problems, interesting to see them changing things around. Now, if they can just get rid of the annoying habit of having the video stories autostart…

Navigation

A few years ago I did a comparison of the results from online trip planners. Here’s an update of sorts.

I tested 247 Flinders Lane (which is an address on a one-way street, in an area with lots of turn restrictions and pedestrian streets) to see what the various navigators would do. For the destination I just put Bentleigh (my neighbourhood).

Yahoo Maps couldn’t give me an answer, reporting that “Driving directions cannot be determined between these locations”. I tried giving it a specific destination, but it wouldn’t do it.

Google Maps directionsGoogle Maps:

1. Head west on Flinders Ln towards Flinders Way    0.1 km
2. Turn right at Elizabeth St    0.1 km
3. Take the 1st right on to Collins St    0.5 km
4. Turn right at Russell St    0.2 km
5. Turn right at Flinders St    0.2 km
6. Take the 1st left on to St Kilda Rd    4.6 km
7. Turn left at Fitzroy St    77 m
8. Turn right at St Kilda Rd    1.3 km
9. Continue onto Brighton Rd    1.9 km
10. Continue onto Nepean Hwy    4.1 km
11. Slight left at Centre Rd    1.5 km

Google decided that just entering the suburb for the destination would go to the post office.

The directions are pretty good, but St Kilda Junction confused it; you don’t (you can’t) turn at Fitzroy Street when headed southbound; you turn briefly onto Punt Road, which then leads you onto St Kilda Road.

Whereis:

1. Continue on Flinders La, Melbourne – head towards Degraves St
2. Turn left onto Degraves St, Melbourne at Punt Hill
3. Turn left onto Flinders St, Melbourne
4. Turn right onto Swanston St, Melbourne at Young & Jackson Hotel
5. Continue along St Kilda Rd, Melbourne at Arintji Cafe & Bar
6. Veer right onto Punt Rd, St Kilda
7. Continue along St Kilda Rd, St Kilda
8. Continue along Brighton Rd, St Kilda
9. Continue along Nepean Hwy, Elsternwick at McDonalds
10. Veer left onto Ramp, Brighton East
11. Continue along Brewer Rd, Brighton East
12. At the roundabout – take the 2nd exit onto Brewer Rd, Bentleigh
13. Arrive at Brewer Rd, Bentleigh

Curiously it’s led me to somewhere well outside the logical centre of Bentleigh, though it might be the geographic centre of the suburb.

It figured out St Kilda Junction, but got the initial directions completely wrong, directing me to turn into Degraves Street, which is mostly closed to traffic, and then to do an illegal right hand turn from Flinders St into Swanston St. I kinda like the use of landmarks for directions though.

Bing/MSN maps:

1. Depart -37.81673, 144.96600 on Flinders Ln (West)
2. Turn LEFT (South) onto King St  (0.1 km)
3. Road name changes to Kings Way  (2.3 km)
4. Bear RIGHT (South) onto Queens Rd  (2.0 km)
5. Turn LEFT (East) onto Union St  (0.4 km)
6. Turn RIGHT (South) onto Punt Rd  (0.3 km)
7. Keep STRAIGHT onto St Kilda Rd  (1.3 km)
8. Road name changes to Brighton Rd  (1.9 km)
9. Keep LEFT onto Nepean Hwy  (4.1 km)
10. Keep LEFT onto Centre Rd  (1.5 km)
11. Turn RIGHT (South) onto Loranne St  (0.0 km)
12. Arrive -37.91806, 145.03544  (0.0 km)

This one has also led me to the post office. Unlike the others it preferred Kingsway to St Kilda Road, but I can’t see any flaws with its logic, though it did decide I should go all the way along Union Street to Punt Road — that may well be faster than turning off Union Street at St Kilda Road.

And for non-drivers, how about Metlink’s journey planner?

From 247 Flinders Lane (Melbourne City)    
Walk about 220 metres to Flinders Street Railway Station (Melbourne City)

1. Continue along  Royston Pl   20 m  about 1 min
2. Turn right at  Flinders Lane   80 m  about 2 min
3. Turn right at  Swanston St   120 m  about 2 min
4. Continue along  St Kilda Rd   10 m  about 1 min
5. Arr:  10:08 am  To Flinders Street Railway Station (Melbourne City)  210 m  4 min

DEP: 10:08 am  Flinders Street Railway Station (Melbourne City) Platform 8
Take the train towards Frankston — Time 21 min
ARR: 10:29 am

Get off at Bentleigh Railway Station (Bentleigh) Platform 2    

DEP: From Stop Bentleigh Railway Station (Bentleigh)
Walk about 50 metres Time 7 min
10:36 am To Bentleigh (Bentleigh)

Metlink decided “Bentleigh” meant a street next to the railway station. Not sure why.

The instructions to walk to the station assume that Royston Place is a thoroughfare; It’s a deadend; you can’t get to Flinders Street station that way. Update: Ah, it assumed I was starting in Royston Place, not walking through it. Not sure why it would do that though. And it didn’t send me via the quickest pedestrian route, which is the Degraves Street subway.

But the train trip itself is correct.

Unknown why it thinks it’ll take 7 minutes to walk 50 metres at the end of the trip. Maybe it’s adding a bit in case the train is late, or you have to wait for a train at the level crossing.

So, Bing gave the best result. All the others appear to need some attention.

ABC web site useable again

I noticed the other day that the ABC Local web sites were down for maintenance.

They got a revamp in mid-2008 that left it incredibly messy. Apart from the garish green and black colours, it was impossible to find things.

It’s like they forgot that they’re most often promoted via the ABC Local Radio stations; finding programme information and clips was really difficult, lost in a sea of links.

Happily they’ve given it another facelift, and not only are the colours a bit easier on the eyes, it’s a easier to find things again.

ABC web site late-2008 ABC web site early 2010

Progress, definitely progress.