March 29, 2008


I love reading posts like Daniel’s on the CSSWG:

We want less perfectionnism, a bit more formalism, openess but not chaos, prioritization and RECs, RECs, RECs.

Progress, goals and aligned interests make me happy.

Daniel mentions CSS Variables (!) in a previous post, but unfortunately the linked discussion is W3C member-only.

posted by Andrew

March 24, 2008

30 minutes with Flock

I was reading Planet Mozilla and somehow got lead through a nest of articles to Flock. I’d seen them mentioned several times in technical circles but hadn’t tried the browser out. So I did, and decided to do a stream-of-consciousness review of my first half an hour with the product. Spelling and grammar beware!


8:24pm: Wow, very nice website.

install process is a little clunky if you’ve got a firewall that asks about programs accessing the net. Flock starts three or four times, and each time ZoneAlarm asked about Flock acting as a server and then for accessing the net.

startup, wow the interface is a little busy. Stylish though. I like the star and the little “rubber” back and forward buttons. Most buttons underneath I’m oblivious to except they look like UI clutter. White -> grey toolbar transition graphic looks good but I don’t know what that area actually is.

Introductory page presents a javascript alert box if google-analytics.com is inaccessible (I have it blocked in my hosts file). Click Help in menu, Give Feedback. Nice! Bug reported. That was easy.

Move on from the intro page. I like the “My World” thing. Get distracted by a news story. Middle-click to open story link, but it triggers middle-mouse page move thing. Middle-click again and the story opens in a tab. Strange but forgivable, except if it happens in normal web content as well.

Want to see how the star works — expect bookmarking. Click it. Scary orange help bar appears with stuff I don’t care about. Text, links, graphic, button, tickbox and cross. Close orange bar without reading it. Click star again to change the bookmark I just made, although if I wasn’t using FF3 I wouldn’t know to do that. Slightly scary Bookmark Properties window appears. Looks very clunky compared to the other UI: controls not aligned, Local section I don’t grok, and tags box doesn’t look like a text box. It isn’t a text box. Text caret doesn’t appear when I click in the box. Close Properties box.

Back to My World. Some of the feeds I’m not interested in. How do I remove them?

Right clicking on a feed on the left doesn’t do anything. Left click opens the feed in a tab and pops a sidebar open. Sidebar looks confusing. Close sidebar. Close new tab.

No idea what the number underneath the feed’s icon do — no tooltip. Click on them to see if they have options for the feed. Opens the feed in a tab, pops sidebar open again. Close sidebar. Close new tab.

Left or right clicking the “Favorite Feeds” grey column title doesn’t do anything. Click little arrow in mild frustration before realising it moves columns. Move column back. Impressed by simple customisability. Click on “Stay in tune” but it only mentions how to add feeds, not get rid of them.

Click on Widgets menu above grey column title. Doesn’t offer anything useful.

Click on Favorites in the menu bar. I see Feeds! Unfortunately I can’t delete ESPN with right click. Does nothing. Left click just for the hell of it. Opens the feed in a tab, pops the sidebar open. Close sidebar. Close tab. At this point the sidebar is pissing me off.

Work out what the little icon beside “Post to my blog” is supposed to be by inferrence. It’s a quill.

Open Favourites Manager. Slightly put off by mix of native and custom chrome.

Can’t find any mention of my favourite feeds. Figured they’d be in the Favourites Manager. Close Favourites Manager.

Start looking through the menus. Find Tools, Feeds. Hey, this is the feed sidebar I’ve been closing constantly. Delete ESPN. Feel conflicted about leaving CNN there. Isn’t it strange that I have to open a sidebar to configure the feeds when they’re listed in the Favourites menu? Close feed sidebar.

Move on to Friend Activity. Click on Flickr. Log in, but I’m not sure why. Flickr appears, and I’m distracted by pictures. Not sure what the point of logging into Flickr was. Click back on My World to see if something has magically appeared there. Ah, the orange bar has appeared again. Didn’t see it. My friends will now appear when I’m logged into Flickr. Hmm.

Open a pic up. Orange bar appears again. Getting sick of reading it. Media streams — I’m assuming that refers to the photostream on the page. (At this point I save this text in notepad, almost calling it flockr instead of flock.)

Click the “Show me how” button, which flashes the movie/camera orange icon near the star. Nice. Click it. Oo! Black bar appears with the photostream, and pics fade in as they load. That’s really funky.

Open my current image in Original Size and try to save it. Eek, I miss my Firefox extensions. Hey, that’s a hazard with every new piece of software. No dramas.

Get distracted by real life and come back to Flock five mins later. Momentarily confused that my tabs have disappeared, then I realise they’re under the media bar.

Decide I really, really like the media bar, which is quantitively one billion times better than using Flickr directly.

Close all my tabs back to the My World page.

The media bar is incredibly distracting. Click on “Media Streams”, Add to Favourites. Window appears with info about what to expect now. Text at the top isn’t easily scanned; could do with being a single-line sentence and two bullets. I close the Media Streams bar so I can focus on the other My World stuff.

Open a new Digg link from the Favourite Feeds panel. Slight visual confusion between tabs and the second icon bar above them. Almost clicked on the wrong one a couple of times.

Want to try the other options in the Friend Activity column, but the options for signing into other services has disappeared, overwritten by my flickr contacts.

Explore that icon bar above tabs, find Accounts and Services tooltip. Click it. Sidebar opens. Flock is obsessed with sidebars. Click on Youtube. Predictably, the orange bar appears with yet more info. Nice, YouTube search engine in the browser. Click “Show me how”, add the search engine. Appears in the search list now. Will never use it, since the first thing I did in FF was remove the useless search bar, set the userchrome value for searching with the address bar, and use it instead.

BTW, I like that Flock downloaded the Flash runtime on install. Practicality ftw.

Close YouTube tab and go back to the sidebar. Reflect on the fact I don’t have a twitter account. Meh. Wonder what the GMail integration is. Click it.

Old friend the orange bar appears. I’m halfway through reading the text when the orange bar inexplicably disappears. I know it’s spiting me for ignoring it all the other times. Close GMail, and it remains logged in and available on the sidebar. Immediately close sidebar.

Click on Widgets in My World and enable Favourite Sites. Eek, horizontal scrollbars are not your friend. Can’t resize Friend Activity, which is needlessly wide.

Distracted by address bar. Have been wondering what the Mail icon beside the “go” button does. Click it. GMail’s compose window opens. Pretty funky. Notice it’s included my tab’s current URL in the message body, and the tab’s title in the subject. Close GMail tab.

Back in My World and I’m feeling overwhelmed by Web 2.0 icons. Close Favourite Sites column. Notice the Mail icon near the tab bar is orange. GMail is being monitored in the background - nice!

Load slashdot to get away from My World, which threatens to dominate me with constantly updating feeds.


My longest blog entry this year :P

Flock’s featureset and integration feels pretty vast at first glance. Bar the initial UI confusion I enjoyed playing with the whole My World feature, and the media bar is great. The built-in feed monitoring should strike fear into the heart of any obsessive-compulsive users; I found myself looking at the My World feeds way too often.

The practicality of having so many common web services integrated directly with the browser is obvious. Right now I’ve got GMail monitored, there’s updated news to read, and someone’s posted new media content. I can tell that just by three toolbar buttons being lit up. That’s great.

It’s tempting to think that some, if not most of this functionality could be introduced to Firefox via extensions, and maybe it already is; I haven’t looked. Having only spent a short time with Flock I expect I haven’t discovered two-thirds of the functionality. Just hovering the toolbar hints at Blog integration, Photo upload and a web clipboard feature. There’s the People sidebar, which is something unexplored. A quick glance shows how simple it makes contact management over several websites (maybe that’ll change with OpenSocial/DataPortability/Passport et al, but likely not). I haven’t fully explored the range of supported web services either.. there’s probably an extensibility mechanism for that.

Flock is well worth checking out.

posted by Andrew

March 16, 2008

CSS3 Playtest updated

I’ve made considerable changes to the CSS3 Playtest in my work area. Browser support has improved for a lot of features, so I’ve added extra niceties to break consistent rendering across browsers. Off the top of my head I’ve added:

  • Selector tests for nth-* properties (broke first-line stuff in FF2&3)
  • Generated content, positioned relative to owner box (only supported by Safari3/Webkit & Opera 9.*)
  • HSLA colour selection for some borders and box shadows (broke Opera 9.5)
  • Multiple background images (only supported by Safari3/Webkit)

Webkit’s support for CSS3 features like text and box shadows continues to make me happy, and the Apple-style font rendering is beautiful compared to hideous Windows Cleartype. I’m a little concerned that Opera renders shadows darker (I think Opera’s in the right) but it’s sure to be evened out (and may be related to the font rendering anyway).

The page is documented (both code and inline) with breakdowns of how existing browsers behave and references to bug reports. Bug report links for Opera and Webkit are lacking, but it’s a start. If you find anything wrong, let me know.

posted by Andrew