10/21/2000

Not that I’m complaining in the least. It’s nice to have two days for the price of one while laying things out initially. So, let’s put some real content here, rather than “Hi, I’m Dave and I’m putting together a Web site” ramblings.

A Mac maintenance tip. Alwin Hawkins sent a tip to Dan Bowman, who passed it along to me:

My own personal choice is to burn a CD with a System Folder, DiskWarrior, TechToolPro, and the Apple rescue utilities. When a Mac can’t find a hard drive to boot off of, it will try to boot off the CD drive. Terribly convenient…

Another choice is picking up a cheap refurb external drive (SCSI for old macs, Firewire for new), load it with the tools you need, then stick it in a place where the kids can’t muck about with it.

When your Mac dies, you clip the drive to the external bus and Bob’s your uncle.

Lacking a burner-equipped Mac, that second tip is exactly what I did at work. We bought the biggest SCSI drive available at the time (I think it was a 20-gig), which I installed in an old external enclosure and partitioned. I installed the OS and utilities to one of the partitions; the rest of the space I use for quick-and-dirty backups. Before I make a major change to a system, I drag its drive icon to one of the partitions so I get a full backup, including hidden files, then go to work. If I mess up, bringing everything back is just a matter of dragging the partition’s icon back, then un-nesting the folders from the first two levels (the drag operation creates a folder with the disk’s name in it–just drag the folders to the root of the drive to undo that).

Design anarchy. Designers are used to specifying everything about their work’s appearance. So are computer users. This has been a point of contention since the Web’s infancy. (Designers don’t like to budge after years of classes and experience. Computer users don’t like to budge after years of classes and experience. Being both, imagine the conflicts that go on inside my head! No wonder I’m neurotic…) Centuries of experience have proven that a line width between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 alphabets (49 to 65 characters) provide maximum readability. Tables provide a neat way to hard-code such things.

But readers used to configuring everything about their machines (and chances are there are plenty of those in my audience) don’t like when I do that.

This time, I opted to code my site to scale to screen resolution, then I opened my browser full-screen (I usually keep it at about 680×768 or 800×768). I didn’t like it much. But then I hit the Ctrl-] combination to increase font size (I was using Netscape at the time). Then I hit it again. And again. And I liked it. Then I dropped my screen size to 640×480 and my browser to standard font sizes. Still readable without too much obnoxious scrolling.

So I’ve given up some control. But hopefully that’ll result in better readability on a wider variety of machines.