Merlin Mann Takes a Stand

Merlin Mann, the cool uncle of the Interwebs, encourages himself and others to rise above the trite remarks, easy jokes, and poorly conceived and executed “user-generated” content permeating our culture, in order to create something better:

What worries me are the consequences of a diet comprised mostly of fake-connectedness, makebelieve insight, and unedited first drafts of everything. I think it’s making us small. I know that whenever I become aware of it, I realize how small it can make me. So, I’ve come to despise it.

So, here’s to being exceptional.

And if you’re unfamiliar with Merlin, check out 43 Folders, 5ives, or my personal favorite, You Look Nice Today.

Kim Høltermand

Kim Høltermand

Gorgeous architecture photography.

Studio KXX


Nice design and illustration over at Studio KXX. I really dig the horizontal navigation, but I wish there was a big link at the end to send you back to the menu. Oh well.

Cast Iron Ampersand


Do I need one of these? Hell no.

But it just might be the coolest 20 pounds of iron I have ever seen.



Incredible “light paintings”.

If you have ever seen the Sprint commercials with animations created using flashlights, then you get the concept. These photographs, by Cenci Goepel and Jens Warnecke, however, are far more striking. The landscapes are beautiful; I particularly like the shots in Norway, where you can see the Aurora Borealis.

30 Most Incredible Abstract Satellite Images of Earth

30 Most Incredible Abstract Satellite Images of Earth

Gorgeous satellite photography of our amazing planet.

The images you see below were taken at the turn of the Millennium, when NASA’s scientists had a brilliant idea: to scan through 400,000 images taken by the Landsat 7 satellite and display only the most the most beautiful. A handful of the best were painstakingly chosen and then displayed at the Library of Congress in 2000.

XTRABOLD™ – Nelson Balaban

XTRABOLD™ – Nelson Balaban

Pleased to share the amazing work of XTRABOLD.

Zebra From one one zero: a Font.


Zebra is a gorgeous new font from one / one / zero. Check out their site, or just grab the font.



Ever wanted to create your own isometric pixel picture, but didn’t know what the word isometric meant? Well, now you can fulfill your wildest dreams with Cubescape!

Good, pointless fun. See mine, or create your own.


I created a movie of one of my designs animating, and I also created an open Facebook group, “Cubescape Highlights”, where people can share their creations. Go, cubes!

Alex Trochut – Creativity, Type & Illustration


Seriously cool custom lettering from Alex Trochut. Take the time to check out the work on his site, you will not be disappointed. Unless, of course, you don’t find incredible talent to be interesting. In that case, you might have bigger problems than wasting time on a website.



Nice work from Swedish graphic designer, Jens Nilsson. Check it out!

iLK™ | graphic design, illustration and art direction


This guy has some great visual work that you should check out. Everything from websites to graffiti. I like how the creative characters found in his graffiti carry over to his design work, as can be seen in this piece, titled “best wishes 2008”.

Getting the Most Out of Safari with SafariStand

SafariStand is an InputManager for Safari, which basically means that it is a back-alley plug-in. Apple’s web browser, Safari, does not have a supported plug-in architecture, which is a shame because that is the feature that I see as being the real draw of Firefox. Regardless, I use Safari as I find it to be the fastest, slickest web browser on the market. Luckily, mac developers have another route for adding new functionality to Apple’s flagship browser through the use of InputManagers, such as the now infamous Inquisitor.

I had stayed away from SafariStand in the past as it has a complicated install process, and some consider InputManagers to be something of a black art. The new SafariStand has some truly killer features though, and I was compelled to give it a try. Among a host of features, there are two that stand out to me (admittedly a prototypical web geek) as must-haves:

History Flow

SafariStand saves a thumbnail of every page you visit, and then lets you browse them in a CoverFlow-like interface similar to that of iTunes. This is really best described visually:


This is a really clever idea, and has been very helpful. It is much easier to recall what a page that you visited at a week ago looked like than it is to remember the title or address.

Clip Web Archive

This feature allows you to right-click on any element on a web page, and grab the source as a web archive. When you choose “Clip Web Archive” from the context-menu it reveals a powerful menu that lets you grab the HTML source of that element or any of its parent elements. For instance if you click on a paragraph you have the option of saving an archive of just that paragraph, or, for instance, the article that paragraph is within. See below:


You also get the option to include a header in the archive that saves the page info and date recorded, as well as add a note. I have been using this to grab little pieces of info from around the web, and leave myself little notes about why I thought it was interesting. I find this to be much more powerful than just bookmarking an entire page.


I highly recommend installing SafariStand despite all the FUD surrounding InputManagers. Hey, if it’s good enough for Jon Hicks, it’s good enough for me.

Hulu Is Actually Pretty Sweet

Hulu is a video website, similar to YouTube, but offering “premium content” such as full-length movies and primetime TV shows. It is a joint venture between FOX and NBC (funny they capitalize FOX, is it an acronym? Maybe “Fucking obnOXious”) so I was quick to dismiss it as a misguided attempt by the old guard to move into this new space. But I am pleasantly surprised as the whole package seems really well put together and offers something you can’t really get anywhere else: a free, viable alternative to regular TV.

Some Things They Got Right

When grabbing the embed code, clicking on the Copy To Clipboard button generates a little checkmark to let you know that you are good to go. Smart.


Dim the Lights:


Collections: like playlists for videos. This will be huge once you can create your own.


Also, you can create your own clip by dragging the handles on the timeline. This is so clever… you can pick out your favorite scenes and share them. Here’s mine:

Browsers Behaving Badly: Internet Explorer and the Web Standards Debate

For a long time now Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been the world’s most widely used web browser. According to, at one point in 2004 it accounted for more than 95% of browser usage. Over the past few years, browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari, among others, have been gaining market share, and at the time of this writing Internet Explorer accounts for approximately 75% of browser use.

A wide variety of browsers to choose from is good for everyone. Competition forces browser makers to keep their products top-notch, and consumers also have a wider selection so they can find the browser that best fits their ideal.

With the wide variety of web browsers available, there exists a need for uniformity in how they diplay web pages. Internet users should be able to expect a site they visit online to look the same regardless of the software they are using. If you open a PDF, a text file, or a JPEG, for example, it will look exactly the same on any platform and with any software, with very few exceptions. The same should be true for web pages, within reason. The reason you can sit down at any web browser, and have a similar experience on the web is due in large part to web standards. The World Wide Web Consortium publishes specs for the various web standards such as HTML, XHTML, and CSS, among others. These specs define the standards for how web pages should be created, and for how web browsers should render those pages.

IE6 is The Only Browser That Matters

Back in the days when Internet Explorer 6 held 95% percent of the market, adhering to standards was not Microsoft’s number one priority. If IE6 exhibited some non-standard behaviors, well who really cares, because no one will ever kno. the difference. So over the next few years millions of web pages were created from the “IE6 is the only browser that matters” point of view, playing into all of its little quirks.

Well, after a five year hiatus Microsoft wants back in the browser game, and they want to join the web standards party. “The more, the merrier”, I say.

You Reap What You Sow

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer’s developers find themselves in a bit of a tight spot. those millions, if not billions, of pages pages I mentioned before look like shit when IE tries to render them in “standards mode”. The problem is that all those pages expect IE to render them improperly, so when it suddenly renders them differently they fall apart. Its kind of like if you were leaning into the wind to keep your balance. If the wind suddenly stops, you are going to fall flat on your face. And that is exactly what’s happening:


Granted, that looks like an extreme case, but the point remains. Sites that looked fine in IE6 may be completely broken in IE7 and IE8.

So What Now?

There is a debate going on within Microsoft about how to handle this tricky situation. Their initial response was to render pages as they always had in the past, unless the page includes a special piece of new code which specifically prescribes IE8 to render in standards mode. In this way, old pages display as they always have, and new pages can be written to take advantage of IE’s newfound abilities. This seems like a reasonable solution, but there are a few drawbacks. On one hand web developers would have to add code code specifically for one browser, but on the other hand it can be argued that we have been doing that for years with CSS hacks, PNG fixes, and the like. The other problem I see is that this can hardly be considered progress, as most of the time IE would continue behaving as it always has.

More recently, Microsoft has reversed their positon, saying that all properly formed web pages will be rendered in “standards mode” by default. This is the correct course of action, as it encourages web developers to adhere to standards, which leads to greater interoperability in the future. Web sites that break in IE8 will need to be updated, and that is a good thing.

What about all those orphaned web pages out there that don’t have a caretaker to bring them up to code. The people who really need those pages to render as they did in the past can keep a copy of IE6 kicking around, or use an IE6 emulator. But it would be a shame if a modern browser was designed to emulate on old, broken one.

Further Reading

This post was initally just going to be a link to this article by Joel Spolsky. He gives a really good run-down of all the issues at hand and how we got to this point, and uses a really interesting analogy to illustrate the complexity of the problem.

This article was published after Microsoft made its original announcement on IE8’s proposed behavior. It gives a more technical description of the “version targeting” solution.

It’s About Time

At first I thought this was a really clever concept for a clock:


How often do you really need to know exactly what time it is? How often do you ask, “what minute is it?” Those are the questions I asked when i first saw this clock, and the answer to both is, “rarely”? But the logic behind that line of questioning is flawed? Just because I rarely need to know exactly what time it is, doesn’t mean that at some point I won’t really need to know exactly what time it is?

The first time I looked up at this clock and wanted to know, for example, if I had two minutes to go to the bathroom before a meeting, and the clock didn’t have an answer, I would be extremely frustrated. Especially because a boring, regular, old clock would have been perfectly capable.

Secrets For Adventurous Mac Fans

Secrets is a new project from the creator of Quicksilver. It tracks hidden preferences in many Mac applications and provides an interface to them through a unified Preference Pane.


Some of these hidden preferences are no doubt hidden for a reason, but I’m sure there is few little things everyone would like to adjust. Take a look at a list of all of the documented preferences or download the software here. But be warned: not for the faint of heart.

Typoasis – A Deluge of Free Fonts

This website has a huge collection of fonts which are all free to download. I have downloaded a bunch and they all work great, and seem to have all the special characters included as well.

The only problem I have with this site is restraining myself from downloading hundreds of new fonts, which I will probably never use. Of particular interest to me was the Blackletter Revival collection. I started looking at these typefaces when I was designing our wedding invitations, and I think they are beautiful.


The entire collection is great, but I am particularly fond of Jaecker-Schrift. Check out this gorgeous eth character from that font.

Go get yourself some new fonts but don’t go crazy; you know you’ll never use them all.

Amazing Flash Interface by WHITEvoid

Amazing Flash Interface by WHITEvoid

When you immerse yourself if the world of HTML, CSS, PHP, etc., its easy to forget that there is another half of the universe that deals almost exclusively with Flash. Web standards and accessibility advocates argue that Flash sites are not good “web citizens”, due to the proprietary nature of the software used to create and view them, their inability to be indexed by search engines, and their dodgy, often non-existent support for assistive devices, such as screen readers.

In an article at A List Apart, Dan Mall wrote:

There’s a belief within the web standards community that Flash is part of a different world. While all approaches have limitations and drawbacks, Flash has been scorned to the point that many refuse to acknowledge its benefits. Ultimately, this has led to the creation of a virtual separation among web designers; those who use Flash use it exclusively (leading to a saturation of full-screen, “Skip Intro”-rich Flash sites on the web) and those who don’t ever give it a second thought.

I believe this to be true, and while I used to enjoy working with Flash, I have to admit that I’ve fallen into the latter category recently.

That is, until this evening, when I viewed the WHITEvoid website. The interface is really intuitive, responsive, and fun to use. Environments like this simply can’t be created with traditional web technologies.

You really should go have a look yourself. For those who care, the site is using Papervision3D, which is an open source 3D engine for Flash.

Links for 2/11/08

Mint Logo

Mint is a web analytics service that I have really been wanting to try for a while but haven’t been able to bring myself to. Although I think the price tag ($30 per site) is very reasonable, I can’t quite justify spending money to find out that the only people who visited my site in the past month are my mother and my brother, and even then, only because I set my URL as their home page.


Regardless, Mint seems to be a great service, and I have heard nothing but rave reviews of it. Shaun Inman, the man behind the cool, flavorful service, recently posted an image on Flickr describing the logic residing just beneath the surface of the Mint logo:

Beautifully Euclidean.

Cloud is Cool

Cloud is Cool

‘Cloud’ is a sculpture created for a British Airways terminal by the London art and design studio Troika. You really have to take a look at it to fully appreciate it, but I think the concept alone is pretty novel:

…we created ‘Cloud’, a five meter long digital sculpture whose surface is covered with 4638 flip-dots that can be individually addressed by a computer to animate the entire skin of the sculpture. Flip-dots were conventionally used in the 70s and 80s to create signs in train-stations and airports. We were fascinated by their materiality, by the way they physically flip from one side to the other. The sound they generate is also instantly reminiscent of travel, and we therefore decided to explore their aesthetic potential in ‘Cloud’.

I love that they took the “Flip-dots”, something simple and mechanical, that has been around for quite a while, and turned them into a work of art that is so high-tech.

Read more about ‘Cloud’ at the Troika website.


This is a great little web utility that I think I will be getting a lot of use out of. Basically it is a bookmarking service, but it is super easy to set up and use. To sign up, all you need to do is provide a user name. You don’t even have to give them your email address. If you are scared that people might find your page and think you are weird for having bookmarked 23 pages regarding the migratory patterns of small rodents, then you can set a password, but that too is not required.

The magic happens with a little javascript bookmarklet that you drag to your bookmarks bar, and whenever you see a page that you want to save for later you just click on it and it adds it to your list, like so:


What’s great is that, as opposed to actual bookmarks saved in your browser, you can access them from anywhere, and create them from anywhere. So say you are up late reading articles online and decide to call it a night, you can just add all of your tabs to Instapaper and finish reading them the next day at work. If, you know, you were into that sort of thing.

Instapaper is written and hosted by Marco Arment and you can get it here.

Links for 1/26/08

It’s super-easy to go from a web page back to the News Items tab Hit the \ key.

Inquisitor Ads


Inquisitor is a great little plugin for Safari that I found about a year ago, and have been loving ever since. I believe technically it is an “Input Manager”, but that doesn’t really pertain to the story. What Inquisitor does is add functionality to the built in search bar, making the experience of web search similar to that of using Spotlight. It updates the results as you type, which gives you the feeling that the entire web is right at your fingertips, and then presents you with about three possible hits, as well as a couple of related searches. I find that one of the suggested results is usually what I’m looking for, and if not I can just hit Return which takes me to the full Google search results page.

I highly recommend Inquisitor for anyone using a Mac, as it adds another level of functionality to Safari’s built in search, looks great doing it, and is completely free. Which brings me to the second part of this post, regarding the recent uproar over the fact that some of the results that Inquisitor provides are product links to Amazon and the Apple Store. The developer uses the revenue generated from the affiliate links to support the development of the software. I don’t see any problem with the developer, David Watanabe, finding a way to profit from his work, and I have never even noticed that some of the links were altered.

What I find ridiculous, is that not only are people so upset with this, but that they have been using this software for over a year with absolutely no complaints, then someone cries foul, and it is suddenly an outrage.

Watanabe’s response:

It’s been like this ever since Inquisitor 3 was released 16 months ago. This behavior is public knowledge, and after over a year of soak-time in the public with no complaints it should be a non-issue. So, imagine my surprise when I wake up to a mailbox containing words unfit for publication, blogs declaring me as the biggest asshole in the world, and demands that people sabotage and steal my work.

When I read that post yesterday, I was discouraged, but not enough so to write a response. But that changed today when I saw an article at The Apple Blog, with the tagline:

Sigh. One of my favorite add-ons for Safari, Inquisitor, has unfortunately been removed from my computer.

Seriously? You are removing some of your favorite software from your computer because the developer had the audacity to try to make a few bucks in such in unintrusive way that you hadn’t even noticed it, much less had to fork over a single dime? That does not make any sense to me.

Sigh. One of the mediocre blogs about Apple, The Apple Blog, has unfortunately been removed from my news reader.

NetNewsWire is Now Free

NetNewsWire, which seems to be the “best in breed” RSS feed reader for the Mac, is now a free download. I actually use NewsFire, but have only heard great things about NetNewsWire, and its developer, Brent Simmons.

If you are not using RSS feeds yet, I highly suggest it, and if you don’t know what RSS feeds are, then you should read this.

I will be giving NetNewsWire a try now that is free, to see how it stands up to NewsFire. I will post an update regarding my findings here.

The New Year

Well it is a new year, and I think its going to be a good one. Honestly, they’ve all been pretty good, but this one stands out for a couple of reasons.

In November, I will marry Genevieve and that is really exciting. We’ve come a long way, and it took me a long time to pull my shit together, but I finally asked her to marry me and she said yes. Along with that I will be accomplishing these things:

  1. Not smoking a single cigarette. I don’t really smoke that much. A few here and there, mostly on the weekends. But it is such a disgusting habit, without any real benefits.

  2. Working out regularly, and joining a soccer league. I realize that these first two are very typical resolutions that often fall by the wayside quite quickly, but I really believe that I can accomplish them, by thinking of them as clearly defined goals not just vague lifestyle changes.

  3. Learning to program in Python. I’m really excited about this one. I’ve wanted to learn more about programming recently, but was overwhelmed by the number of languages out there. My boss recently asked me if I knew anything about Python, because it is a supported scripting language in ESRI software. I told him that I didn’t, but was really interested in it, so one of my goals at work for the year is to learn how Python can help us automate some of our processes. Python is also used to write web apps and also can be used to write software for Mac OS X. What is really great about this is that I will have support and encouragement at work, and will be able to use what I learn for both work and personal interests.

I am going to try to do a monthly post on my progress towards these goals, so stay tuned.