tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

LloydsTSB working with Safari

I've just noticed LloydsTSB's on-line banking now works with Safari, which it didn't last time I checked (probably at Christmas.) This is very good as it means there's only one site left that makes me leave IE on my Mac - the Odeon cinema site. Normally I could have used the 'accessible Odeon' site, but the Odeon recently shut it down, claiming people were getting confused between the accessible site and the Odeon's. While I can't comment on whether people really would be confused or not, or whether it makes any difference, if the Odeon would just get on and replace their very nasty website which depends on some Javascript which is so badly written it only works in Internet Explorer then there wouldn't have been any need for the Dracos alternative and he'd have taken it down.

Here's currently what's wrong with the Odeon website, as I see it:

  • When you click on a 'Film Info' then go back, it takes you back to the day selection, rather than remembering where you were.

  • When I try to move the mouse to click on the 'Film Info' or 'Performance Times' I often move over one of the other films and have to go back and select the film I want again. This can be very annoying when the film I'm after has two long-named films above and below it and would work much better if the films were spaced further apart.

  • The page for the cinema takes quite a while to load. This doesn't stop it working, it just makes it feel bad.

  • Design-wise: longer named films overlap the scroll box which moves the film times up and down

  • I can't use the website in my preferred browsers (Safari or Firefox.) because the Javascript on the pages is very badly written

These points ignore the accessibility problems with the page, i.e. if you're using a screen reader it won't work. You can increase the text size, but if you need it larger than about font size 20 then it becomes rather unreadable because the boxes the text is displayed in don't grow, so you can't see all of the words.

Just to add some balance, here's what I think are good things about the Odeon website:

  • You can bookmark the cinema closest to you

  • It's kept up to date and is accurate (as far as I've experienced.)

Personally, I think the site also looks a bit out of date. Considering all the development work that keeps it up to date and allows ticket booking is done and seems to work fine, they shouldn't need to spend too much money to get a design firm in to change the front end to something that looks nicer, and is better to use at the same time. I have to hope they'll do this instead of just shutting down websites which are trying to be helpful.

ColdFusion beta

Thanks to Tim Buntel's post about the ColdFusion 'Blackstone' beta program, I've signed up for a chance to beta test the next version of ColdFusion before it hits the mainstream.

Science fiction reviews up

I've pretty much finished putting my old reviews on SF Bookshelf, so now I'm having to start on writing new ones, the latest being Future History by Jerry Pournelle, which I read recently whilst up in Leamington. Hopefully there'll be an upturn in the quality of the new reviews and at some point I'll re-write or add new reviews to some of the existing ones I'm not happy with.

All networked out

I get good chunk of my work from referrals. Getting referrals involves people knowing what you do, and that involves meeting people and tellin' them what you do.

So... Tuesday night was a marketing panel / networking at Piccolos in Brighton organised by the Ecademy South Downs Ecademist Club. This was very good, both on the marketing advice front, and on being able to talk to people over some food.

Wednesday was the Farm and although people were thin on the ground I got to catch up with Nathan (who I'm doing some work with) and Paul (who provides hosting par excellance.) Sevan made a welcome return near the end of the evening once he finally finished work.

Thursday brings a Wired Sussex networking event at Koba, a fancy bar on the edges of Brighton and Hove. It was the first Wired Sussex networking I've managed to get to - I always seem to have a clash on Thursdays - and it was well worth getting down to.

I really need to print some new business cards. My cards are very naff at the moment as I have two different sets coming for the two businesses I'm involved with starting. Both are nice cards, but neither have arrived yet, and I could really do with something that looks better than my current large-Arial font black-on-white card that I produce with my inkjet. Still, at least it says what I do on it, which is better than some of the ones I've collected over the last week. I think this is something that comes after you've done networking for a while: when you look through a stack of cards there is no way of remembering what people do if it isn't printed on the card, you really need it on there and if it doesn't fit the design, get the design changed, don't compromise getting some new business.

Ribena dupe

I picked up sugar-free Ribena in the supermarket at the weekend instead of the proper, four-star stuff. Damn their similar labelling, damn them all to hell.

Advert stuff and Beetle things

The adverts on my VW bug fixing site have earnt me a grand $2.39 so far, which is £1.30 in a more relevant currency, which is more than enough to buy me a half pint of beer, but not enough to buy a packet of peanuts to go with it.

I think this is quite surprising. The site is new, I'm not getting great rankings for some of the articles yet, and I'm surprised people are clicking on them at all, to be honest. I'm trying to write more pages for my SF book reviews site, but I can't set up some decent links to that yet because my FTP access to my personal site is down at the moment, so I've got partially duplicate content across the sites, which is not a good thing - Google may ignore the duplicate pages on my review site because it all ready has them in it's index, and it may badly affect the ranking of the whole site until I can remove the original copies.

The welding on my Beetle's underside is finally about to start. Hopefully one of my outstanding invoices will get paid before I have to pay the welder, otherwise my bank manager is going to be very happy. I'll be very glad to get my car back. I'm missing being able to get out of town and hack it around the mid-Sussex countryside. I'm missing the freedom of being able to visit my friends and family easily and hell, I'm even missing the car's silly yellow colour.

Getting the Beetle back will also mean I can take some more photos to go with articles I have planned, so I'll be able to expand my mechanic site with some decent new content. Hopefully this'll bring in some more people to click on my adverts, at the current rate it'll pay for the welding to my Beetle in about sixty years, and to be honest I'm hoping it'll be a bit quicker than that.

Book review - Earth Unaware

I read Earth Unaware by Mack Reynolds recently, here's a review of it. Hopefully there will be more reviews soon.

Back in Brighton

I'm back in Brighton after a week working in Leamington Spa. In the first couple of minutes back someone tried to sell me a Big Issue, two almost-kids delayed me in the shop because they were so hyped up they could barely order their munchies, and I've seen a woman who was probably a man. It's good to be back in dirty old Brighton town. Hmm, perhaps.

(For some reason Blogger lost the first and second version of this post, but kept the title, very odd. I'll try it in Firefox instead of Safari to see if it publishes now.)

Latest work live

Last week I created a recruitment system in PHP/MySQL for ICP Search. All the irritations I found with PHP are pushed away now it's all live and working.

This week I'm writing more ColdFusions scripts up in Leamington Spa, but it's for one of those big projects that never seems to go live and replace the old site.

PHP annoyances

I've been doing a batch of PHP coding for a client this week. Much of it has been pretty straightforward form stuff, but I got to putting an attachment on to an e-mail today and everything suddenly got very awkward.

I find the PHP way of coding a bit long-winded compared to ColdFusion, although no where near as bad as ASP. But I must admit, uploading the file and getting access to it was even easier than in CF. Unfortunately, attaching it to an e-mail, a one line piece of code in CF, turned in to a right mess of writing headers for the e-mail itself, having base64 encoded the attachment.

Paul and Matt pointed me towards a page about doing it with a PEAR addition, but unfortunately I'd all ready got so far in to the script I'd found it was quicker to fix what I had than start again.

Hopefully this is the sort of thing I can knock in to a handy function at some point. It would certainly have made my life easier when I was searching earlier today.


A whole 4 people have clicked on the Adsense adverts on my Reluctant Mechanic site, giving me 22cents of revenue. OK, I'll be able to cash that in about nine years from now, but hey, at least people are finding the adverts useful, which is pretty surprising considering half of them are for New Beetle stuff rather than the old ones that the site is about.

I'm also reminding myself that currently: the site has less than half the articles I have planned, looks godawful, and isn't on it's final rank in the search engines yet as it's so new.

I've decided to ban a company that keeps coming up on the home page selling a 'hair growth enhancer' as it has nothing to do with cars or mechanicking. I thought I had something on the page that was triggering the adverts, like 'tearing my hair out', which I'm sure is on the site somewhere. But I can't see what's triggering it so I'm guessing they're just targetting something very generic. The good thing about Adsense is it's very easy to kick off adverts that aren't anything to do with your site, now I've tweaked a setting they should be gone in a few hours.

Leamington Spa Survival Kit

I'm off to Leamington Spa again next week to do some more ColdFusion work. Having unpacked all my stuff a few weeks ago when I last finished, I have to find all the parts of my Leamington Spa Survival Kit...

  • Books, to fill the time in Leamington's exciting evenings. This time the selection will be 'Love All The People. Letters, Lyrics, Routines' by Bill Hicks; probably one of the Harry Potter books, and the latest Wired magazine. That gives me a complete range of cynicism, I'll leave it up to the reader to decide whether Harry Potter or Wired has a shiniest outlook on life.

  • Notebook, of the paper variety, so I can keep track of when my train out-of-town was supposed to arrive.

  • MP3-friendly CD player, so I can take lots of tunes without lots of discs.

  • Chargers for gadgets. Must remember to charge my Palm before I leave so it doesn't go flat and I don't need to take it's charger with me.

  • Earplugs, in case I get a room near the road again (or the Lionel Richie live CD breaks out again.)

Generally, I can amuse myself for hours (keep those rude remarks to yourself.) But after the four and a half hour journey up there, then the first could of nights with nothing to do, even my high-boredom threashhold gets stretched. Hopefully they'll have finished rebuilding the cinema and have more screens open. Everything on at the moment must be better than what I last saw in Leam: Van Helsing.

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