Oct 1 2008

The Next Generation

I don't usually look to venture capital sites for inspiration, but by proxy I followed a link to Union Square Ventures through Zach Klein's blog.

In an article discussing Meetup.com, Zach found this morsel:

The next generation of services will need to have an impact on the real world and the real economy, not just an attention economy driven by self expression and discovery online. These new services will also need to reach real people, many of who use few if any web services today.

That concept is essentially the motivation behind each of the services I hope to roll out in the coming year. I'd like to create something my family would use and, in turn, make some aspect of their lives a little easier (Fuelly is a great example). It's a daunting task—create something on the internet that makes life easier—but I want to try.

Sep 30 2008

IndexStyleSheet for mod_autoindex

Let me preface this post by saying I only do this on my local Apache install, running on my local machine. I'm sure actual server admins would suggest an alternative way to handle such things on production servers. Consider this a quick and dirty mod that only caters to my your obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Nevertheless, as of Apache 2.2, which comes installed with Leopard, there's a new directive in mod_autoindex by the name of IndexStyleSheet.

According to the documentation:

The IndexStyleSheet directive sets the name of the file that will be used as the CSS for the index listing.

Basically, all you need to do is make sure the following autoindex Include is uncommented in Apache's conf. For Leopard, httpd.conf is located here:

/private/etc/apache2/httpd.conf

Right around Line 450 is the autoindex conf Include—make sure it's uncommented:

Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-autoindex.conf

Then, open up the autoindex conf in the editor of your choice:

/private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-autoindex.conf

Near the bottom of the file, add the following line, as is suggested in the documentation (you can name the directory and CSS file anything you like):

IndexStyleSheet "/css/style.css" 

Finally, create said directory in your main DocumentRoot, create the aforementioned CSS file inside the folder and restart Apache.

It's up to you to style the directory index to your liking—look at the HTML source to get the structure. If you're feeling lazy, you can grab my CSS on Pastie. Note: after restarting Apache, changes to the CSS file will take effect with a simple refresh.

While not necessarily a helpful tip that will save you time and money, it will definitely spruce up those default Apache directory indexes. I develop locally, so I spend quite a bit of time looking at them.

Sep 29 2008

Live Search Maps

I stay fairly insulated from Microsoft's Live platform while in the Googleverse. However, the recent update to Live Search Maps is nice. They added a handful of useful features, but I have to say the Bird's Eye View is the most impressive. The view feeds in oblique satellite images from Microsoft Virtual Earth and then overlays its label and road data. Comparable features can be found in Google Earth and Maps, but in a strictly visual sense it's more appealing than Google's satellite imagery. For a little comparison, check out downtown Concord on Live Search Maps and Google Maps.

Microsoft doesn't have an answer to Street View, which is useful and just fun to use, and Google Maps is fundamentally more helpful. I've no doubt Google will have an answer to Bird's Eye View in the future, but Microsoft is doing some things right.

The only caveat being: why did the developers feel the need to animate the directional markers on the Live Search compass? Completely unnecessary.

Sep 26 2008

Hello World!

I've been a proponent of blogs from almost the inception. My personal blog has transitioned across multiple domains and myriad formats, in the eight years I've been maintaining it. That's to say, I enjoy it.

Of course, I felt compelled to create a blog for Quasi Object. Moreover, I felt a need to chronicle my work as it pertains to web development. I'll never claim I'm an expert of anything, but I have been making websites in one way or another for over 10 years. I would like to think I've got a brain packed full of knowledge on the subject by now.

Now, I'm certain every bit of code that passes through these pages will not be filed under "best practices." Though, I've come to realize the these so-called "best practices" are pretty subjective. I'm a standards guy, don't get me wrong. However, as the saying goes: there's more than one way to skin a cat.

To that end, I take criticism fairly well, will readily admit when someone has a better idea and, at the same time, aggressively defend my own position. Nevertheless, I welcome your insights and feedback. Comments are your soapbox.

Mixed in with usual stream of web development discussion will be updates and announcements regarding several internal projects in the works. I won't divulge any details just yet, as nothing is set in stone. Just know: when there is news to report, you can bet it will appear here first.

Lastly, I want to thank the crew at Studiobanks for an enjoyable ride over the past four years and change. I definitely cut my teeth on the industry during my tenure there.

Enough reminiscing, let's get started.