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Filed in:CSS
Web Dev·The Web

Playing with Opacity

May 29th, 2008  · stk

Opacity is a CSS3 directive, but there's no reason not to start using it today. Apply it against the major browsers, validate it against the W3C CSS validator and I'll even show you a great "Before & After CSS Opacity Technique" for displaying your before-after photos

opacity overlay

hover to read

Using the CSS3 "Opacity" Directive: Future-Proof, Valid CSS and No CSS Hacks

opacity sidebar

The "Opacity" CSS directive is part of the CSS "level 3" Color Module, which is a "Candidate Recommendation". In a nutshell, this means that opacity isn't "ready for prime time".

Darn and phooey! You like opacity. And why not? It's fun to play with and you can achieve some nifty web effects using opacity. (I'll demonstrate an opacity technique that provides a great CSS-only way of showing "before" and "after" photos!)

Enjoy the MAGIC of Valid CSS3 Today!

What is opacity? Well, it's the opposite of transparency. Something that has 100% opacity is 0% transparent. Likewise, something with 0% opacity is 100% transparent.

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) recommends thinking of opacity as a post-processing operation. After an element (including it's children) is rendered into an image for the computer monitor, the opacity setting specifies how to blend the element into the final display.

Applying opacity to an element is easy. Simply specify the "opacity" directive to a selector and provide a value from zero to 1.0, where zero is completely transparent and 1.0 is completely opaque.

Of course, the difficulty is that the level 3 CSS candidate recommendations are only honored by a select number of web browsers, notably current versions of FireFox, Opera, Safari & Netscape. As usual, the Grand Pubah of browsers (Microsoft's Internet Explorer), doesn't adhere to this as-yet approved CSS directive.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that I'm here to tell you that if you want to use opacity for your web pages - you can! We have been for some time!

There's a way to use opacity for FireFox, Opera, Safari, as well as Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7. (According to AWSTATS, a web server statistics program, 97% of our 113,728 April visitors used one of these browsers ... heck, that's about as close to "everyone" as you're going to get in this cross-browser world of ours!).

There's even a way to use opacity so that the CSS validates (to verify this, just click on the "CSS" validation button in the footer below)!

Best yet, it's completely future-proof and requires no CSS hacks.

OKAY ... you're primed and ready. You want to start using opacity.

All you have to do is read on, Cascading Style Sheet lovers ... read on ...

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Views: 53220 views
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Updated: 30-May-2008
Web View Count: 53220 viewsLast Web Update: 30-May-2008

Getting Off the Sunset Train

April 30th, 2008  · stk

Today, because of the Intuit "Sunset Policy", Quicken Deluxe 2005 will lose certain functionality. It's a blatant money grab by Intuit, confident I've grown used to the functionality and will purchase a new version ($89). Sorry guys, I'm getting off the Sunset Train. Read how I'll regain the lost functionality (and actually improve upon it)

thumbs up

Shame on Intuit's Sunset Policy, which disables certain software features after three years, effectively forcing customers to purchase an "updated" version (containing few substantive improvements).

I've been using Quicken since 1990 (18 years). I'd say that makes me a long-time customer. I used to upgrade every year and drool over the new features like a kid looking through a confectioner's window. As the product matured, I noticed that the new, must-have features became fewer and farther between. The software also became more expensive and so, I stopped purchasing yearly upgrades.

Apparently, I wasn't alone. When Intuit noticed this shift in consumer behavior they countered it with a planned obsolescence of their products, in the form of a Sunset Policy. By disabling certain features every three years, they could generate revenue by forcing users, dependent on those features, to upgrade.

This first happened to me in 2005, with my Quicken 2002 version. At the time, I didn't object too loudly, because I found a way to upgrade for free! Fast forward to 2008 and now it's Quicken 2005 that that is being crippled - today. Intuit says, "Buy Quicken 2008 Premier or lose certain online features."

Well, this time Intuit, I'm getting off the Sunset train. I've found a simple work-a-round for downloading multiple, daily stock and mutual fund quotes, which is the only feature I use that's going to be disabled today. And thanks to my mate, I now have mQuote, which is actually superior to the historical quote retrieval "service" that I'm losing inside Quicken!

For more about why the Intuit sunset policy sucks and my stock quoting work-a-round, read on.

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Views: 24705 views
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Updated: 20-Mar-2009
Web View Count: 24705 viewsLast Web Update: 20-Mar-2009
Filed in:CSS

PZ3 Inside IE Tables

February 25th, 2008  · stk

Photo-Caption Zoom images have been problematic in IE tables. It's yet another failure of IE6 and IE7. However, I've spent some time and made a work-a-round that yields good cross-browser results (and overcomes the IE tables problem). Have a look -

Photo-Caption Zoom Inside an Internet Explorer Table

You like Photo-caption Zoom. You've finally found a valid, pure-CSS, easy-to-use technique that shows both a thumbnail and zoom-able detailed image (along with a caption), without your visitor having to leave a page or suffer through another pop-up window. You deploy it inside of a table and suddenly, when you view it in Internet Explorer, it doesn't work right.

I've received many emails and comments from people about Photo-caption Zoom not working inside an IE table. Up until now, the only "solution" was to say, "don't use tables", quickly followed by "Internet Explorer sucks". (I had one desperate client for whom I "welded-on" a series of Photo-zoom DIVs to the edge of a table. It was my first stab at a work-a-round and it worked fine, until the font size was changed).

While it's comforting to me that the problem isn't the Photo-caption Zoom code (it's an Internet Explorer problem), this isn't much solace for anyone wanting to use it. What's a person to do?

A Solution to the Internet Explorer Table Problem

I recently had a play with Photo-zoom inside of tables. I was able to isolate the Internet Explorer problem and find a work-a-round. It side-steps the IE tables problem and also works in other browsers. Have a look.

The table below contains Photo-caption Zoom images. It works in both IE6 and IE7 (as well as Opera9, Netscape9 and Firefox2). Yay! Finally - a way to use PZ3 inside tables.

Product Description Price Avail

ThermalTake TMG A1 CPU Fan

35.14 CFM max flow at speeds between 300-2,500 RPM. Quiet, reliable cooling.

The TMG A1 uses a frameless fan design that virtually eliminates noise-producing turbulance. Runs quiet at 16 dBA. Supports AMD PWM FSC specs.



Thermaltake Silent Case Fan (White)

63.3 CPM at 1600 RPM. This DC, 120mm case fan is very quiet (16 dBA).

Count on Thermaltake to make the worlds best cooling products. The Silent CAT fan is an intelligent choice. It runs quiet and is affordable.



To learn more about the Internet Explorer tables problem and work-a-round, read on ...

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Views: 14807 views
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Updated: 25-Feb-2008
Web View Count: 14807 viewsLast Web Update: 25-Feb-2008

2 Days & 2 Nights

February 14th, 2008  · stk

Crashing 4-year-olds

Last week was a blur. First, my 4-year-old computer crashed. Shortly after, my four-year-old kid crashed (she became ill). Work came to an immediate halt. Rachel was on her 4-days of 12-hour hospital shifts. I faced a broken computer, a broken kid and the joy of running the house. Days were spent rebooting and shuttling CD's and my nights were spent soothing, medicating and taking care of our sick little girl. I didn't get much sleep.

I began as I was working on my 4-year-old computer, as I normally do. It began to fight me. Nothing unusual. I've been experiencing crashes and computer problems for over 6 months. I've been expecting the point of no return, but trying to put it off. You see, I'm an application guy. I'm not a hardware guy or a network guy. I like to USE the computer, not tinker with it.

I said, "Oh no, here we go." It's not a pleasant sensation, but who can complain after nearly four years of relatively trouble-free computing?

A sub-spooler system failure kept me from printing a check deposit slip. Rebooting didn't fix the printing problem. Restoring the system to an earlier time (which has, on occasion, been my saving grace) didn't fix the problem. I restored it to a month ago. After reboot, the computer froze and I found myself staring at a multi-colored taskbar and desktop. While it was pretty, it was also ugly. The cursor was toast. Keyboard entry didn't do anything but "bonk" at me, after entering a buffer's-worth of keystrokes. Then the computer said, "Game over." It initiated an auto-shutdown. Ack!

What was left? It was time to re-install the operating system from scratch.

That night, after day-care, my 4-year-old daughter decided to call it quits too. She initiated an auto-shutdown after contracting a nasty cold. The only difference between her shut-down and my computer shut-down, was that she waited until the middle of the night to shutdown, rather than shutdown in the morning.

To read about my week of fixing 4-year-olds ... carry on.

Fixing 4-Year-Olds

Views: 4799 views
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Updated: 28-May-2009
Web View Count: 4799 viewsLast Web Update: 28-May-2009

Serving it Up

February 4th, 2008  · stk

This is as close as it gets to an "About Randsco" page. Readership sits at 85,000 unique visitors a month (Jan 2008). Reasons why, what's popular, monetization, Interent penetration & the future of Randsco are all discussed.

Randsco: 86,500 Unique Visitors During January


On Growth: Nearly 15% of all the visits Randsco has ever had, came last month.


"Randsco" was born early in 2005. It was a blogging experiment that came about after acquiring a domain name and moving to a shared hosting company. Before that, we had maintained our websites at GeoCities, a free online host. In autumn of 2004, GeoCities changed their advertising and because the new method impacted the visitor experience, we made the leap to an inexpensive ($5/month), shared host.

Randsco started as a means of documenting our lives (primarily for ourselves, but also for family and friends). Additionally, it allowed us to share our love of backpacking, cycling & adventuring with like-minded people.

Wow, have things changed. We still document our lives, keep friends and relatives up-to-date and share our adventures, but Randsco now serves up much more:

Because Randsco has been (sorta) monetized, we've recently moved to a $50/month VPS host. Hopefully this will result in a superior visitor experience (stability & page load speed).

Readership growth is due to a number of factors: worldwide Internet penetration, benefits of a blog tool, increase in SPAM and (last but not least) valued content. To find out a bit more about monetization, what articles are the most popular, worldwide Internet penetration & the future of Randsco .... read on.

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Views: 29015 views
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Updated: 10-Feb-2008
Web View Count: 29015 viewsLast Web Update: 10-Feb-2008