:help

Help page & FAQ

General information about the site can be found on the “About the site” page. That page also has a copyright notice for the site. The reason for this page’s existence has largely gone following the recent redesign of the site: the features of the design which might have caused problems have been removed, I am pleased to say. The page now doubles as a FAQ.

The site is divided into five sections: the weblog, book reviews, articles on web design and some pieces which are expressions of my opinion about anything which takes my fancy (these include the rants, one of which was the initial stimulus for the entire site).

The site is designed in XHTML 1.0 and CSS and should be usable in any user agent. If it isn’t, I want to know: contact me.

Users with JavaScript enabled should note that, except in the weblog, clicking on a quote from a web site will take you to that web site.

FAQ


Why have you used XHTML 1.0 rather than HTML4.01?
There is no strong reason to prefer one over the other. XHTML 1.0 is, after all, a reformulation of HTML4 as an XML application. I decided the site needed a complete redesign because I was unhappy with the reliance of the previous structure on JavaScript in a couple of areas (JavaScript is never a good thing to rely upon because it may be, and often is, unsupported or disabled by the user). Additionally, other pressures and distractions had meant that I hadn’t given as much attention as usual to the quality of the markup so some errors and frankly bad markup had crept in. I decided to completely go through the site and make it conform to a Strict DTD. As most of the site was written in HTML4, it was easiest to switch to XHTML 1.0 Strict because then a glance at the source would reveal whether or not I had fixed a page. By the way, because the site already made much use of CSS, the reworking was not such a mammoth task as you might imagine.
I use Netscape 4 and the page looks nothing like the screenshots of the site in some of the web design articles — why is that?
Netscape 4 sucks. That’s the short answer. OK, it was a good browser in its day, in fact at one time it was my preferred browser. That was a long time ago. (Four years, an aeon on the Net.) Its support for CSS is poor, to say the least, so it can’t handle the extensive use of CSS aimed at more modern browsers. A very simple stylesheet is presented to Netscape 4; this doesn’t attempt to mimic the style of the site in other browsers but simply to give a pleasant if basic style to the site for users of that browser. In the more recent (minor) redesign, the Netscape 4 stylesheet was removed altogether. In the couple of years since this answer was first written, NN4 usage has become vanishingly small, and no wonder: not only is MSIE now much better than version 5, it is facing vigorous competition from Firefox and other Gecko-based browsers. It is simply not worth the work to maintain a stylesheet for NN4, or to waste even a little of the users’ time in downloading a stylesheet for NN4. Anyone who is, for whatever reason, stuck with Netscape 4, though, will find the site usable, if not particularly pretty.
So you think I should upgrade from Netscape 4?
Nope. What you use is your business. You may have very good reasons to stick with Netscape 4. It’s up to you.
I use Opera and the menu and search form sometimes run down off the menu background.
Opera does not properly respond to overflow: auto which should produce scroll bars in the navigation div when the content is too big for the container. There is no simple or completely reliable way of fixing this. As far as I can see, this has been fixed in more recent versions of Opera.
Why do you use enormous fonts for everything?
I don’t. This site is designed to be as accessible as possible. That means that most if not all text in the site has its font size described either in ems or percentages. If you are seeing an enormous font for the main body text, that is because your browser’s default font size is set to be enormous. This can be a problem in Internet Explorer, which sometimes seems to be set with an enormous default font when it is first run (and if not enormous, the default seems to be tiny — nice work, Gates). Internet Explorer (for Windows) has a Text Size option on the View menu. Users of Mozilla, Netscape 6+, or Opera should check their preference settings if there is a problem with font size. Remember that in Mozilla (I don’t know if this is true in Netscape 6+) CTRL-+ (or CMND-+) will increase the text size, CTRL-- decrease it; in Opera + and - will increase and decrease the magnification of the page.
Why do you have a picture on the home page and a photograph of a flyover on the “About” page, both with the ALT text “A Scottish scene…”?
Both pictures are expressions of my artistic tendencies. I used to paint and draw, but I can’t really do that now for reasons I won’t go into here, so I have been exploring the artistic possibilities of photography and graphics software. The two pictures Old home page imagereferred to here are both derived from photographs taken in the Anderston area of Glasgow. I had originally planned to use the plain photograph on the home page, but I was not happy with that and using the original as I base I worked extensively on the image to produce the result as seen on the page now. The photograph on the “About this site” page actually had more work done on it,About page image although that may not be obvious, partly to enhance the sense of heat (it was a very hot day when I took the original photograph). As for the ALT text, that is a little joke. As with many Scots, the “tartan shortbread” stereotype of the country irritates me. Yes, we have magnificent scenery. Yes, we have beautiful lochs and valleys. We also have cities and roads and railways, and much of the urban landscape has a beauty of its own. The car coming off the motorway and the flyover at Anderston are both Scottish scenes as much as a view of Ben Nevis or Loch Lomond. The site’s home page has been through a few different looks since this was first written, although the “About” page still has that picture of Anderston baking in the summer sun. Rural HOME page image(Yes, Scotland does get a fair amount of sunshine, despite the jokes.) At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, the picture used is of a rural spot I found quite idyllic. If you are interested, here is a gallery with screenshots of most of the site’s incarnations.
Why do you dislike/hate America/Americans?
I don’t. There are things I dislike about America, and there are attitudes some Americans have which I dislike, but I don’t dislike America or Americans per se. I think that it is a nation founded on noble ideas, but which has betrayed them to some extent. I think that the political system amounts to an elected feudality, which is something I find both backward and unappealing even without the rampant American imperialism we have seen since the Second World War. I dislike intensely: the lack of respect in much of American “culture” for intellectual achievement; the attitude of some Americans who cannot grasp that American opinions, beliefs, customs and values are not necessarily accepted let alone the norm in other countries and who cannot see that American laws do not apply in other countries; American tourists who expect everything in other countries — the service, the food, the plumbing — to be the same as in America and who expect US dollars to be accepted everywhere; dim American authors who write utter shite about “the old country” and insist that their crackpot opinions are “more valid” than the truth or the views of those who actually live there; and probably some other things besides. On the other hand, I’ve known some Americans who are as intelligent and cultured as anyone from a European country; one of the best living novelists is an American; and at the moment most of the interesting work in television is taking place in America. That was true when I wrote it, but while there is still some good stuff coming out of the USA — I won’t miss an episode of The West Wing, for example — British TV seems to have renewed vigour, with excellent new comedy and drama, much more exciting than anything produced across the Atlantic. Everything else here remains true.
Why do you dislike/hate England and/or the English?
I don’t. As a Scot I do dislike the way Scotland has been treated by English governments over the years, and the sort of obnoxious Englishman who comes to Scotland and refers to it as being “in England” I find loathsome. In general, though, the English are no worse than any other nationality, and they are a lot better than some. I lived in England for ten years, I enjoyed living there and never found the English to be particularly unfriendly or unpleasant. Don’t confuse criticism of the political system and establishment with criticism of England and its inhabitants.
Why do you dislike/hate Christians?
I don’t. I’m not a Christian, but I have known many Christians who were decent, intelligent and a pleasure to know. (The same goes for other religious groups, including: Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Witches, Asatruar and probably some others I have forgotten.) What I do dislike — that’s putting it mildly — is: narrowmindedness, stupidity, obscurantism and arrogance. In particular I abhor the lunatic fringe of Christians who mendaciously claim their beliefs about the origins of the world and the life on it are “scientific”. These people are poisoners of the well of truth, and should be held up to ridicule and opprobrium at every opportunity.
So what are your beliefs?
My business. I am absolutely not going to proselytise for my beliefs.
Why don’t you ever put online emails which are critical of your site or opinions?
Er… I haven’t ever received any. [I have since this was written — see Feedback.] I did expect to get the odd “You’re full of shite!” message, but never have. The messages I have received have been:
  • complimentary: “well put”, “I agree with that”, etc. — I don’t think this would be terribly interesting to anyone else, do you?
  • pertinent comments which I have put on the site in the appropriate places
  • thanks for an explanation of something which has been helpful to someone reading my web design articles
  • requests for advice or help — if it isn’t something too time-consuming, I have even been known to give it
  • one bizarre message which didn’t make a lot of sense until I worked out that the writer was under the impression this was the home page of an American, Christian rock group (yuk!).
This remains largely true; however, as well as the message responded to on the Feedback page, there have been some from people who were clearly under the (mistaken) impression they had seen a flaw in the argument in the article about frames. There’s a note appended to the article dealing with this.
Why “DC’s” page?
Well, I’m DC and these are my pages…

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