Bootstrap vs Foundation at Learnable

Two men and a woman chatting

Bootstrap vs Foundation

Learnable has just published an interesting video where two front-end developers discuss the benefits of both Bootstrap and Foundation.

I’ve been using Bootstrap on and off for the last couple of years, having been a firm user and contributor to the Blueprint CSS community.

For the last few months I’ve been really keen to check out Foundation. From what I’ve seen so far it looks very impressive. I’ll report back once I’ve had a more in depth look.

In the meantime, check out the video: Bootstrap vs Foundation.

Installing Node.js on Windows 8

Command line showing node installation

Command line showing node installation

Over the last month I’ve slowly begun exploring Node.js and so far I’m really liking what I’m seeing.

In a nutshell, Node.js (or simply Node) allows you to write server-side JavaScript. In other words, until now JavaScript is normally written to be run within a web browser, on a web page. Node instead allows you to write JavaScript applications that run outside the browser or via the command line.

Node uses Google Chrome’s JavaScript engine, called V8. Perfect if you are used to writing JavaScript for your browser.

This means that you can now write applications, or ‘modules’ that can do stuff outside the scope of a web browser. For example, you could write a simple web server in Node or — and this is what I want to use it for — you could write modules to manipulate web code and automate certain processes related to web development.

Installing Node.js

Installation on Windows 8 could not have been any more straight forward:

  1. Visit nodejs.org
  2. Click the “install” button to download the installer.
  3. Run the installer (make sure you tell the installer to add references to your PATH system variables).
  4. Reboot your PC.
  5. Er…
  6. That’s it!

Command line

Almost everything you do with Node is via a command line. You can use either the standard Windows cmd.exe or Windows PowerShell (or, indeed, any other command line interpreter (CLI) you may have installed).

To use the standard Windows command line:

  1. Press Win + R (for Run)
  2. Type: CMD
  3. Click OK

Checking that Node is installed is as simple as opening a command line and typing:

node --version

Hit enter and you’ll get a result, something like:

v0.10.5

Node Package Manager

One of the great things about the Node installer is that it automatically installs the Node Package Manager. This makes it much easier to install additional applications to extend Node’s capabilities.

Again, you can check the version of NPM by typing the following into your CLI:

npm version

You’ll get an answer, returned as a JSON object:

{ http_parser: '1.0',
  node: '0.10.5',
  v8: '3.14.5.8',
  ares: '1.9.0-DEV',
  uv: '0.10.5',
  zlib: '1.2.3',
  modules: '11',
  openssl: '1.0.1e',
  npm: '1.2.18' }

To find out what packages are installed enter the following into your CLI:

npm ls

The result will be formatted as a directory structure, like this:

C:\Users\Gareth
├── cssmin@0.4.1
└── n@1.1.0

Obviously, to find out which globally-installed packages are available use the global flag:

npm ls -g

The first application/module that I want to investigate in depth is the CSS pre-processor Less which is used by the Bootstrap project. I will no doubt report back.

taking-the-episcopalian.co.uk domain name for sale

Ruins of Whitby Abbey

Ruins of Whitby Abbey by James Nader. (Image courtesy of iStockphoto - #109404.)

Would anybody like to acquire the domain name taking-the-episcopalian.co.uk? It expires on Saturday 07 April 2012. Contact me if you would like me to transfer the domain name to you.

History

In 1997 I began a two years course of studies at TISEC, the Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church, as well as an MTh in Ministry course at New College, the University of Edinburgh.

It wasn’t long before I started editing an “underground”, satirical newsletter that did the rounds among fellow students and a few tutors, mostly at residential weekends. We called it Taking the Episcopalian.

As I wrote later, “my original idea for the newsletter was to provide a forum for a light-hearted look at the life and work of TISEC. My personal interest is in satire – no, not the woodland god with goat’s ears, legs and a tail, that’s a satyr – but, satire: ‘ridicule, irony and sarcasm’.”

Its content was contributed to mostly by the full-time TISEC students, and also a few tutors. Taking the Episcopalian was fun, and it often relieved some tensions and made light of some of the politics, which in turn helped us to cope in a more light-hearted way.

Residential weekends became our deadlines and there was always a flurry of activity in the couple of weeks before the weekend to get articles finished and the newletter typeset (in Lotus AmiPro) and a few copies printed. I seem to remember we would print only two copies to reduce the chances of it being discovered by… well, tutors who hadn’t contributed to the newsletter.

Online

After ordination, and as the world wide web became more popular, Taking the Episcopalian quietly moved online. As we weren’t aiming for regular publications, new articles were added more infrequently. We did, however, acquire a couple of new contributors from the Church of England, and began what turned out to be a very popular new series with images lifted from the pages of vestments catalogues.

This, I think, was my favourite:

Priest in vestments

I'm a Christmas tree!

I even got an email from someone who works at F A Dumont Church Supplies who said, “I absolutely love your website, especially the model section!”

Feedback

The feedback was mostly positive.

“Brilliant! More please!”

“Ah, such fond memories come flooding back when I read this post. It took me right back to those dreadful days but oh, what fun we had. Thank you for this trip down memory lane. And I stand by everything I contributed!”

Your work is brilliant and most welcome!!

I even had an email from a bishop from Norway who wrote:

Dear Editor !

I must confess that I have fallen in what St Benedict condemns as a serious sin – and your web site is the reason for it, since it gives ‘anything that provokes laughter” … which he of course “condemns to
eternal exclusion.”

Thanks a lot for a lot of really good laughters ! I specially enjoy the chasuble with a thermostat!

During most encounters with my diocesan bishop he asked me when there was going to be more content; particularly more vestments.

Take down

But not all the feedback was positive, and in the end I was strongly and politely ‘invited’ to remove the site completely; acknowledging that while I wasn’t the only person involved I was certainly the most public face of Taking the Episcopalian.

Reuben and Joshua had not long been born and I simply didn’t have the energy to do anything else. The site had moved to WordPress.com by then so it was easy to mark the site as private and effectively hide all the content.

Moving on

That was three years ago, and I’ve not had the energy to do anything more about it.

Occasionally I get asked about the site, mostly asking when it will be back. I usually say that I was asked to take it down, and that I simply don’t have the time or energy to do anything about it these days. It’s just not been a priority.

I do wish that it had grown a bit more, but there you have it.

Transfer

If you would like to acquire the domain name then please get in touch. It’s currently registered with 123-reg.co.uk (and I’ve just noticed is still registered to my old address in Inverness) and is due to expire on 07 April 2012.

Contact me if you would like me to transfer the domain name to you. You’d be welcome to (most of) the backlog of content too, if you wanted it.

The stupid EU cookie law

In May 2011 a new law came into effect across the European Union that affects probably around 90% of all websites. The UK government has given UK website owners a year (so, until May 2012) to get up to speed with the legislation and do something about it. The law is to do with how cookies are used.

What is a cookie?

In Web-speak, a cookie is a simple text file that stores information about websites you’ve visited. They can be used for lots of thing, such as for the browser to remember that you are already logged into that website, to store items in a shopping cart on a commerce website, or user preferences on another site.

My main browser (Google Chrome) reports that it has stored 3722 cookies from 1374 web domains.

A cookie for a particular site can only be written to and read by that website. So, Facebook cannot read cookies created by Google websites, and Google websites cannot read cookies created by Facebook.

The worry is, however, that spyware software could potentially access these cookies—they are simple, easily read text files after all—and gain all sorts of information about you, such as browsing habits, personal details, etc. And it seems to be this that the legislation is aiming to address.

The issue

Over the next few months I’m going to have to get my head around this legislation, both for my own websites and for the University of St Andrews website. There has been some interesting and useful discussions about it on various JISC-run inter-university email discussion groups.

My main concern is that this doesn’t ruin the user experience. It’s going to be very, very annoying if you require to give consent to every single website before you can meaningfully use it. My fear is that it’s going to become the Web equivalent of the User Account Control (UAC) nightmare that Windows Vista introduced.

Update

Thursday 5 January

Last night’s post was a bit rushed. I didn’t expand it quite as much as I’d have liked but I was tired and I just wanted to get to bed!

Ironically, I kept waking up during the night thinking about it. At one point Jane was awake so I talked it through with her. She has to put up with that kind of thing from me all the time, poor girl!

Anyway, this morning I got three replies on Twitter:

  1. Surely new cookie guidelines are sensible? Happy to chat about this.
  2. The sad fact is, it puts EU based sites/companies at a disadvantage vs those in the rest of the world.
  3. In intent, sensible. In execution, I’m with @garethjms – stupid. Can only see negatives for UX.

And a couple of comments below (which I’ve only just approved). A nice balance of for and against. I look forward to getting my head around this and posting more about it, here and on my professional blogs.

Blueprint cheat sheet updated for version 1.0.1

20110618-blueprintcheatsheet43

This week I updated my Blueprint CSS framework cheat sheet for Blueprint v.1.0.1 which was released last month.

Changes

I mostly fixed a few typos, and added the new features that the latest version of the framework added: mostly HTML5 input attributes. I made the following changes:

  • NEW—FORMS Added new HTML5 input attributes: email and url.
  • NEW—IE FIXES Added IE8#HACK.
  • FIX—FLOAT CLASSES p .left and p .right was showing the margins only for p .left.
  • FIX—Page 2 was showing a completely different version number from page 1.
  • CHANGE—Updated the list of URLs on page 2, removing one that is now redundant.

Download

You can download it from the usual places including garethjmsaunders.co.uk/blueprint/

It’s released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 UK license so feel free to use it, adapt it, whatever… The source document (in Microsoft Publisher 2010 format) is available on the site too.

Enjoy!

My Opera 11 and Opera Dragonfly 1.0 challenge

20110509-opera11

I spotted on Twitter the other day that Opera have updated their web debugging application Dragonfly to version 1.0. Dragonfly is to Opera what Firebug is to Mozilla Firefox.

I’ve always been very impressed with Opera, as far back as Opera 3. I used to use Opera 5 on my Psion 5mx and I still use Opera Mobile on my HTC HD2 (Windows Mobile 6.5).

So to check it out and put it through its paces I’ve decided to use both Opera and Dragonfly exclusively for the next month in place of Google Chrome (browsing) and Firefox/Firebug (debugging).

Dragonfly is now built-into Opera. Just download Opera 11.10 and to open Dragonfly press Ctrl+Shift+I (Windows) / ⌘+⌥+I (Mac) or right-click and select “Inspect” from the context menu.

I’ll report back here, but I’ll also be blogged about it on My Opera blog.

Who wants to join me?

Blueprint CSS v.1.0 cheat sheet

Blueprint CSS 1.0 cheat sheet

This afternoon I published my Blueprint CSS v.1.0 cheat sheet, a handy guide to all the classes used in the Blueprint CSS framework.

I even got a mention on the official Blueprint CSS Twitter account, which was kind:

Announcement about the latest cheat sheet on the Blueprint CSS Twitter account

Announcement about the latest cheat sheet on the Blueprint CSS Twitter account

The cheat sheet is released under a Creative Commons license, allowing you to adapt the work so long as I’m attributed. The file is available in PDF and Microsoft Publisher 2007/2010 (source copy) formats, as well as on Scribd.