Archive for July, 2005

Naively, I used to believe that making your site accessible and valid were just “no brainers”. However, my experience over the past few months has taught me that there are just enough conflicts between Valid HTML and Accessibility to make this quite a challenge.

Let me be 100% clear, that when forced to choose between accessibility and validity, I choose accessibility. No question. But that is my short-term answer. My long-term answer is…let’s get accessibility and validity to agree!

I really resonate with the mission of all of those who are working on web standards. When asked this week to explain why valid HTML was important, I responded:

To make the web work the way it should really work we need to focus on three mechanical things:

  1. We need to write and serve good code.
  2. We need tools that help us (and don’t prevent us) from producing good code.
  3. Browsers and Screenreaders (and other user tools) need to handle good code accurately.

I’m thrilled with the progress I’m seeing in all three of these areas…and yet we still have quite a long way to go. But hey, isn’t that what makes this all so very satisfying? I love a good challenge. Especially when conquering that challenge has such a substantial payoff.

What is the payoff for baking, serving and being nourished by good code? Time and yummy content and functionality. Imagine the world in 5 years. It is 2010. Validity and Accessibility have been friends for years. You can’t remember the last time you discovered one of your pages didn’t meet standards. With the time you used to spend coding for non-compliant software, you’ve been 30% more productive. You used that time wisely to create content and applications that enriched the lives of other people.

Blink. Daydream over. It is still 2005. How can I make a difference today? Here is my personal list:

  1. Produce accessible and valid code. When I find that accessible and valid are in conflict. Document the issue and let the W3C and the Web Standards Project know about my struggle.
  2. Help others produce accessible and valid code. Teach classes. Document techniques. Offer assistance.
  3. Proactively ask others to produce accessible and valid code. Friends, co-workers, colleagues and software vendors. Ask each of these groups as though they were my very best friend.
  4. Dream about the tools we need to make this process really work. I’ve already got my first wish. I wish the W3C HTML Validator offered manual checks on items that create accessibility issues. And I can’t just blog about it here; I’ve got to ask the W3C directly!

‘Bout time I created a mobile theme for this site. Notice the new Themes category in the Navigation. You have two juicy themes to choose from: Emerald City or Mobile Witch.

Must admit, it was fun. Design focus was for PDA viewing. I haven’t conquered making it friendly for my ancient mobile phone (Sony Ericsson T616) yet. That will have to be a project for another day (yawn).

So, what do you think? Is this design PDA friendly? What suggestions do you have to make it better?

If Mobile Witch does not render well on your mobile device, can you let me know your:

  • device
  • OS
  • browser

P.S. If you haven’t tried creating your own theme for Word Press, what are you waiting for? Instructions for WordPress Theme Development can be found on the wonderful wordpress wiki. But honestly, the way themes are implemented in wordpress is so intuitive, you may find you can mostly just follow your instincts!

UT tower lit with an L

Do you still believe in miracles? I do. I’ve just witnessed two marvels of determination, teamwork and faith. One was on international television, the other took place in a private hospital room.

Lance Armstrong just won his 7th Tour de France. While some may be tired of his dominance in this sport, I personally found this 7th and final win to be the most meaningful. Yes it is exciting to have an Austinite become one of the all time great sports figures. But more than that, Lance represents hope for cancer survivors. Through LiveStrong, Lance has shared his victory over cancer with all who are diagnosed with this disease.

This year when I picked up my LiveStrong Bracelet, I also learned about the LiveStrong Survivorship Notebook. My eyes filled with tears as I read:

Knowledge is power.
Attitude is everything.
Survivorship begins with diagnosis.

I took this information to my dear friend who had just been abruptly wrenched from his daily life and thrown into the hospital with the label “Acute Luekemia”. We talked about the importance of the expert medical care he was receiving from the team of doctors and nurses, the riches of support from friends and family and his own absolute determination to live.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched my friend deal with his twist of fate like a true hero. I only hope that when I’m faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, I will be able to be as brave, gracious and resolute.

So today, I celebrate two victories of cancer survivors. Light the tower with an “L” and let’s drink a toast to life.


Position Puzzle: Where are you? Or more specifically, where is your handheld?

IrDA Beacon and Dell Axim x50v

One method for determining the location of a handheld computer indoors is by infrared beacons. Armed with two Lesswire IrDA Beacons and my trusty Dell Axim x50v, I searched for the answer to my position puzzle.

Each Lesswire IrDA Beacon is designed to broadcast a unique identification code over a short distance. In addition to the unique id, the beacon can hold up to 60 text strings. Maximum broadcast area for this unit is 10 meters with a wide angle coverage of 165 degrees horizontal and 55 degrees vertical. The unit can be powered by battery or external power supply.

So, for example, if you were to walk into a museum of natural science, I could have an IrDA Beacon in front of every major exhibit. Your handheld would sense the exhibits you were closest to and let you choose to learn additional information. I would have the choice of mapping the IrDA unique code to each exhibit, and triggering the appropriate information that way, or I could add a few text strings to communicate information to the handheld device.

For my first experience, how could I resist teaching the IrDA beacon to say “Hello” and “Glenda”. Original…I know.
Screenshot of PDA receiving Beacon ID and the text HelloScreenshot of PDA receiving Beacon ID and the text Glenda
Condensed Results

  • Pros: Works like a charm. I’m in love. IrDA is a wonderful option for location sensing. Economical, compared to wireless location sensing. Easy to set up and maintain.
  • Cons: Infrared requires line of sight, so beacon’s can be blocked by someone standing in front of it. Possible solution, mount multiple beacons for an exhibit, or mount beacon on ceiling where it isn’t likely to be blocked. Does not provide wireless internet access for other fun things I want to do in the museum.

Specific Lessons Learned about IrDA Beacons and Pocket PCs:

  1. For Windows Mobile 2003 OS: Make sure to install the iPAQ 5550 version of the lwBeacon.dll. This is the only dll that I’ve gotten to work with the Windows Mobile 2003 OS on the Dell Axim x50v and the Dell Axim X5.
  2. Make sure the “Receive Incoming Beams” setting is UNCHECKED. I know, I know…it sounds counterintuitive..but it is true.
    (uncheck) Receive all incoming beams and select discoverable mode.

    Why do you need to do this? Because if you leave this setting checked, then the lwBeacon.dll and the Windows Mobile 2003 infared.dll fight with each other and you will never win!

  3. The wires that lead from the battery to the IrDA device were purposely not connected (I think to keep the device from draining the battery). Once I connected the wires…then the battery took a charge and voila, I was in business.
  4. While I could get my newer devices (Dell Axim X50v and X5) to receive the IrDA beams, I could NOT get them to reprogram the content on the IrDA beacon itself. I had to use an old iPAQ 3670 running MS PPC Version 3.0 to program the lesswire beacons. I couldn’t get any of the Dell’s (Windows Mobile 2003) to program the beacon. They Dell’s can all receive the beacon info…but not program it. Luckily, I’ve got about 5 old iPAQ 3670’s lyin’ around.

So who’s the highest blogger in the land? At the moment, I’d betcha it is the amazing Molly! She is on a private jet blogging and IMing via WiFi in the sky. But don’t read my account…read Blogging the Stratosphere!

Molly, you are my hero!

Summer is smokin’ hot in Texas. We have our rituals for keeping cool that usually involve water, frozen margaritas and air conditioning. But most days when I’m driving home, I see people standing on the corner, in the blazing heat, asking for some help in hard times.

Sitting at the traffic light in the cool comfort of my car, I wonder how I can help the person on the corner. I hesitate to give them cash. I don’t like ignoring them. Rolling down my window and telling them to contact the local United Way doesn’t seem like a bright idea either.

Then I discovered Bags of Grace. A Bag of Grace is simply a one-gallon ziploc plastic bag filled with non-perishable food items and other basics I often take for granted. I know it won’t solve homelessness but it is a tangible way I can make a small difference.

Want to try it? Here are some suggested items for the bag:

1 – 16.9 oz bottle of drinking water
1 – 5 oz can of Vienna Sausages
1 – 4 oz can of fruit
1 – 7.5 oz Chef Boy R Dee meal
2 – 6 count cheese and peanut butter crackers
2 – .5 oz meat snack sticks (Jerky)
1 – pocket size packet of tissues
1 – pack of Juicy Fruit gum
2 – individually wrapped hand-santizing wipes
1 – restaurant pack of eating utensils with a napkin
Card w/ information on how to contact the local United Way for assistance

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Annie Leibovitz knows how to capture the spirit of an artist in her legendary photographs. Wandering through the American Music exhibit at the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA) was pure pleasure today.

Intimate glimpses into the personas of Willie Nelson, Iggy Pop, B.B. King, Lucinda Williams, John Lee Hooker…and the exhibit was further enhanced by an audio tour narrated by Annie herself. Hearing her voice while looking at her work was an amazing experience.

The technology used for the audio tour is simply a cell phone. You can bring your own, or borrow one for free from the front desk. Dial the phone number and then the four-digit code on the label next to each photograph, and you have Annie as your guide.

But AMOA didn’t stop with just the audio guide; they also provide iPOD listening stations loaded with music created by the artists in the photographs. I couldn’t decide which I liked more…the audio tour or the iPOD. They both added so many dimensions to the exhibit for me.

In the next iteration, I’d love to see the audio guide and the music combined on the iPOD or other MP3 devices. Aren’t iPODs as ubiquitious as cell phones yet? Okay…okay…I live in a dream world. But some dreams do come true!

Kudos to AMOA for a job well done. I spent far more time exploring the exhibit and engaging with the photographs because of the audio guide and the iPOD listening stations. I encourage you to experience this exhibit while you still can. It ends on August 7, 2005.