Geeknotes 20081231: The good-riddance-to-2008 edition

(Note: this entry was originally written for the Skyscanner Geeks blog.)

HTML, CSS, JavaScript

  • YQL (Yahoo! Query Language) allows you to easily grab XML or JSON data from Yahoo’s services (Search, Flickr, weather, social, Upcoming, et al.) using a SQL-like query language. Christian Heilmann explains. (Being a massive Yahoo! fanboy, I can’t help but jump up and down excitedly.)
  • Dustin Diaz on using a super-simple skinny doctype. One benefit of using this is that you save bytes. Personalyl, I can never remember the proper syntax and URL for the HTML doctypes, so this is going to save me the hassle of looking it up every time I make a new page. (Templates? Phooey.)
  • Cameron Adams built a drum machine in JavaScript: the JS-909. (Via Dan Cedarholm)
  • Chris Anderson of Sitepoint takes a look at CSS3, and how we can use it to create box shadow and rounded corner effects. (Remember that cross-browser compatible does not have to mean cross-browser identical.
  • The YUI Doc tool is an alternative to JSDoc for generating documentation of JavaScript code.
  • A suite of feature detection tests to use as an alternative to browser sniffing. (Via Ajaxian).
  • A new “Lorem Ipsum” generator: gives you chunks of lipsumized HTML, instead of just lipsum text. (Via Andy Clarke)
  • Steve Souders looks at the state of web performance in 2008 See.also Douglas Crockford’s talk on Ajax Performance.

Scaling, clouds


Software development

  • They Write the Right Stuff” by Charles Fishman in FastCompany. An article on the software developers who write the code for the Space Shuttle: “The group’s most important creation is not the perfect software they write — it’s the process they invented that writes the perfect software. It’s the process that allows them to live normal lives, to set deadlines they actually meet, to stay on budget, to deliver software that does exactly what it promises. It’s the process that defines what these coders in the flat plains of southeast suburban Houston know that everyone else in the software world is still groping for. It’s the process that offers a template for any creative enterprise that’s looking for a method to produce consistent – and consistently improving — quality.”
  • Daphne Dembo, Engineering Director at Google, describes some of their challenges in developing a fully international search engine.

All the rest

Going skating

Oostzaan is a very watery place. The central square lies about 60cm below sea level, and the whole village is criss-crossed with canals and waterways. It’s easier to get around on foot and by bike, because there are plenty of bridges that aren’t accessible by car.

There’s a canal that runs just behind our house, and we have been thinking about buying a small boat for messing around in. Until just a few days ago, though, the thought of walking out our back gate, crossing the road, and going skating hadn’t crossed my mind. But we have had freezing temperatures at night for the last week or so, and almost all the water around the village has a thick layer of ice. While Abi and I were out cycling on Monday, we saw a handful of people out on the ice at the skating club, but today it seemed like half of Oostzaan had their skates on.

Alex and Fiona have never been skating before. When I suggested to Alex that we go out and try it, his reaction was immediate: “No! For two reasons: one, I don’t want to injure myself. And two, I’m hibernating!”. Fiona proved more persuadable, and we took a quick trip out to the local bike shop to buy her a set of strap-on blades. (Unfortunately they didn’t have any real skates in my size – I’ll need to go out after New Year to get some.) Then I took her out and let her try them.

Normally I don’t enjoy the cold of winter much, but I’m wondering if that’s because it hasn’t been cold enough for me in recent years. I have to admit that I’m quite thrilled by this deep icy chill.