mrt 5 2007

Myspace song ripper

Too useful to be ignored: the myspace song ripper.
Easy as pie to get that song you love from myspace onto your computer:

  1. Find the url of the page a song you like is on.
    E.g. “The sun in your eyes” is by Tom Helsen, his page url =
  2. Go to: and past in the url you just found
  3. Watch as to how the service analyses the song material on the page, and offers you a convenient “download as .mp3” for each of the songs (try it, as long as it lasts. Their point of not being sued out of existence is that they are not hosting the audio, myspace is. Good enough for me!).
  4. Download the track you like (in this case, the track you’ll definitely like is “the sun in& her eyes”) with “save link as” (Firefox) or “save target as” (IE), and play away.

If you need more convincing of why downloading Tom Helsen’s “the sun in her eyes” is such an utterly brilliant idea, watch the Youtube-video for it. It made my day. Several times already!

feb 16 2007

Styling alt tags

Would it be possible to style the alternative text that is displayed when an image does not load ( This is particularly useful for newsletters, as the default for most mail packages is to NOT display the images right away). My first reaction was: nah, this can’t be done. Second: uhm, let’s try. Third: well have you evah.

Turns out that by setting the text properties (style:text-align, color, font-size ..) of an image, which normally don’t have an effect as the thing IS an image, the alt-text of the image inherits these properties and thus shows up when the image doesn’t load.

That way in our latest vdab magezine-newsletter, we managed to style the head in such a way that the header still comes across well, and the decorative images are hidden ( color: white for those ones ). And that way, the mail still manages to look reasonably nice when opened at first. And it is super-accessible in the same go.

With images loaded: Without them:

Related, on the subject of alt-tags, read this accessibility blog entry: Should alt text be used to paint a thousand words?

dec 18 2006

Me … bows

Thank you. THANK YOU. THANK YOU!!! Yippee. Oh my… Well… sigh… Oh my. Thank you. I hadn’t prepared my speech, you know. But here I am. Only a month and a half ago that I started this here blog thingie. But here I am. Thank you!

Hitler, Ayatollah Khomeiny, Kennedy, me. What do they have in common? Time’s person of the year, all of them, including me, the winner of 2006.

Who would’ve believed that? I’m gonna tell my teachers from high school .. Yes I am … they thought I was no good, worth crap’ola … But I’ve beaten them to it. Victory is m.i.n.e! So long suckers & sayonara!, that’s what I have to say to them.

See you next year, because I’m only getting better at being me, year by year. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

On a more sober note: It’s quite alright for a magazine to be linkwhoring and stuff to gain back some of its lost importance & influence. But naming “You” the person of the year is definitely lame, and the equivalent of the boxing coach throwing the towel in the ring. Why not go choosing a person who really made a mark on this year?

nov 26 2006

Thinking Web (1)

Useful new sites, articles, newbies, tricks, discussions etc. from the world of webdesign, css, xml, information architecture, javascript yada yada, as I come across them.

… on CSS-organisation

Friendly Bit did a serious bit of thinking into the question of How to structure large CSS files. Apart from the indentation part – a very logical way to structure CSS for large projects indeed!

His advice to avoid general rules, handle things with specifics in context (#header ul li a {…} instead of li a {…} or even header a { … }) is the only way to more or less successfully “debug” a complex website!

And sorting the styles in alphabetical order instead of function-related might be a real timesaver if ever somebody foreign to your website has to tinker with its styles.
Other input on this issue:

… on CSS-lookups

Useful Google Coop-powered site for CSS-related issues (search a subset of Google’s web index): Skuer.

… on design tools

25 Essential Firefox Extensions for Professionals. One or two I didn’t know/use. Still find it amazing how this has become such a strength of Firefox, giving it a clear advantage over IE & co for the websavvy crowd.

… on AJAX

Cameron Moll invents a vocabulary for AJAX-effects: Responsive Disclosure, Magnetism, Data Brushing, Latency Reduction … Great to get on the same wavelength as another person you’re talking to, so make this an industry standard!

nov 23 2006

Big brother second life

How’s this for ironic absurdity: Big Brother, the television show that coined the term “Reality TV” now extends their version of reality (stupid games, getting watched 24/24, raunchy talk, endless themesongs, and boredom, boredom, boredom …) to the virtual reality. They’re producing a show in the virtual world “Second Life”, glass house ’n all: Big Brother Second Life. The contestants they’re looking for: “if you’re able to spend at least 8 hours a day in the virtual house from December 1 to 31st” you can go for the magnificent prize: a tropical island! (in the second life environment).

So to sum it up: this is gonna become a unreal reality show with contestants that are selected from the fact they have no life outside second life. And you (the audience) get to watch real avatars!

From the Endemol-press release:

Endemol is the first television producer in the world to establish a branch in Second Life. Managing Director Paul Römer: “The role of online communities is becoming increasingly important. As a producer of cross-media content, Big Brother Second Life represents a fantastic opportunity to amass knowledge of the virtual world. In the future we will use this experience to develop specific content for online communities. Big Brother is the perfect format. Now that it’s been seen by 2 billion viewers all over the world, it is now time to conquer the virtual world.”

Which is lacking a bit in grasping the ironic absurdity of the setup I’m afraid. It’s a new frontier for them to be conquered (after their previous conquests in morality – the pregnant woman in the house – or general good taste).
Starting December 1, on a screen near you (safe to say: that will probably not be anywhere near my screen).

nov 22 2006

Goose – Bring it on

From Kortrijk, the debut album of this foursome is released on a British dance-label. Great: at least one Belgian band that can be found on the .torrent circuitry. Good for them: after trying them out, I purchased 4 tracks of the album.

It’s T-Raumschmiere meets Soulwax, Scritti Politti meets The Chemical Brothers, NiN meets Das Pop. Some keywords: Frantic, synth-powered, pounding, relentless. Weaknesses: the vocals, a few weak songs, “looks”, sometimes it’s all a bit over the top … Stand-out songs: opener “Black Gloves”, current single “British Mode” (that synth!), title-track “Bring it On” and the closing, bonus track “Audience” (the oldest song on the album, but still their most catch, I find).

All in all: If you have the right floor for it, they’ll fill it for ya!

Listen for yourselves at their myspace-page or on the official site. Watch the video’s for “Black Gloves” or “British Mode” at Youtube.

Some blogbuzz about Goose “Bring it on”:

this collective from belgium have a mass of old analogue synths (probably protools soft patches in all honesty) stacked up, they have some cheesy saturday night riffs good to go, see recent single, back gloves, with its sampled shoutouts for evidence. and yes they have some big fucking beats. oh, and alongside all this it rocks.


Some people will try telling you that Bring It On by Goose is a Nu-Rave album, but if they do you should happyslap them as fast as you can. Yes, Bring It On by Goose is a dance record by an instrument-playing band, but then again you could say the same about The Rapture, LCD Soundsystems, !!! and all manner of DFA-produced acts, and they’ve all about as Nu-Rave as your granny’s elbow. Good albums should be able to stand up by themselves independently of magazine-invented scenes, and we’re pleased to say that Bring It On by Goose just about manages to do this.


Lairy electro rock precision-tooled to make your local indie dancefloor go into meltdown or Twisting Synths and sine waves to bowel-shaking extremities, this is an immense album. … New rave has some new noise terrorists. … Hold on to your bowels – the Belgians are here.

was said in NME, quoted on…

Al bij al zorgt het debuut van Goose toch voor wat zure oprispingen en hebben we de indruk dat het verschil tussen moordsongs – u las de titels hierboven al – en onderontwikkeld materiaal toch iets té groot is. Hebben we ons laten vangen aan de puike concerten die aan deze release voorafgingen, het fantastische ‘Black Gloves’ of het onmiskenbare talent dat in deze band sluimert? Misschien. Feit is dat we van een volgende plaat niets minder dan vuurwerk verwachten. In de tussentijd wachten we geduldig af welke reacties deze vriendelijke gozers over het Kanaal kunnen losweken.


De luisteraar wordt tussen al het elektrogeweld ook enige verademing gegund: ‘Slow Down’ is een rocknummer dat lijzig en loom voorbij kabbelt, net als het dromerige, door zanger Mickael Karkousse zacht geneuriede ‘Modern Times’. Bring It On kan niet van begin tot einde boeien, omdat het naar het eind iets te nadrukkelijk naar herhaling ruikt. Maar hoewel de plaat niet in originaliteit uitblinkt, doet hij onze nekharen wél enthousiast recht veren. Daarom: debuut van het jaar. En dat van een bende Kortrijks bourgeoisgebroed. Faut le faire!…

nov 21 2006

Links and how to improve ‘em

Came across this interesting Firefox Add-on called Link Alert.

It works by changing the cursor above “non-regular” links to indicate what will happen if you click it. Thus a link that leads to a word-document, will automagically have a “word”-icon next to the “hand”-icon if you hover over the link.

Although there are some minor issues with this add-on ( changing the options doesn’t take effect until a restart of the browser; There is no way for adding types by the user; What if the website-author already implemented some cursor-changes?; The icons could’ve been better designed …), I still think this massively useful!

In fact, I think this is a kind of behavior that should be implemented as the standard behavior in browsers (of course with an option to turn it off, for those that feel the visual overhead outweighs the usability bonus):

  • As Jacob Nielsen rightfully puts in his latest alertbox, this is an empowerment issue. The users that would benefit the most of this extra information on links (those that don’t really understand the concept of popups, new windows, pdf’s opening …) are not the ones who are going to install Firefox plugins.
  • There were already some very intelligent solutions, implemented on the best of sites to help the users understand what’s going to happen after clicking a link. But these rely on the intelligence and sensibilities of the webdesigner.
  • Add-ons/Plugins are bound to be less memory/performance efficient than a browser-native solution.

So, kudos to Link Alert, but I think this is an easy improvement to include in the next versions of Firefox, Safari, IE & Opera …

nov 20 2006


Is a baby, born Nov. 7th.

My baby (the most wonderful thing in the world).
Welcome my dear!!

Note to blog: she & her little brother Daan (now 1 year & 9 months old, and sick as a puppy today), the giving birth in hospitals, the getting home with the wife & new kid, and all the visiting relatives & friends that came by our house, somehow ate up all my time last two weeks.
Well: time well-spent I suppose.

nov 7 2006

IE7 page zoom: is this for real?

IE7 finally made it easy to scale up/scale down the font size (‘ctrl’-‘+’, ‘ctrl’-‘-‘, or the ‘100%’ situated at the bottom right of the screen). Long time coming!

The IE7-team elected to go with “page zooming” instead of “font scaling” for this. This means not only the fonts go up in size, everything does. Opera 9 has this feature, and it works like a charm. A real bonus for the users: they can scale up, always, even if the designer had the anal idea of controlling his intended minuscule font-size in pixels or in images.

And then the IE7 implementation came around. It’s an unfinished work! Just look at a few of the horrible consequences it has on the layout of the website I work for (fluid layout, ems-based, so that it would scale together with the font-size the user chooses to look at the site in).

Just look at these (screenshots are from this page):

Everything scales, except for the page background (the vdab-logo is an image, blended in to the background):

The crumbtrail below is a bunch of <li>’s, text with a border-bottom, and a background image with padding/margin to have the text next to it:

And, cream of the crop, these are just a bunch of radio buttons and labels, stacked

Some blogbuzz/discussions on this:

nov 6 2006

Test windows live writer

Windows live writer screenshot

Program: Windows Live writer


Install: No probs, although it did not detect this blog running on wordpress, that was easy to adjust manually.

Up ’n Rolling: Edit your post as it appears in the web layout, WYSIWYG. Clean!  Powerful! Much easier to insert links, quotes … than the web-editor in the wordpress interface. Even the trackbacks, post-time, and all the other properties of the post can be filled in right from the interface of the program on your PC.

Cons: Assigning categories to the post is in an awkward spot, in the menu bar, and I don’t see how I can add a category from in there. Each post/draft is a new window (I would’ve thought MS knew about the power of tabs by now).

Things missing: a way to import your drafts from the blog to the local environment. Back-up of posts to the local environment. Maybe: features related to comments (administering, editing, notifying…).

All in all: I think this is a great tool, even in it’s current beta form! Keeping it.

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