HTML5 and CSS3 Bugs in iOS 7

Several readers have written to ask about an article that appeared in InfoWorld entitled, “Bad news: iOS 7’s HTML5 is full of bugs.” In reading about the bugs, it doesn’t appear that any of them will affect the examples found in either HTML5 Programming with JavaScript for Dummies or CSS3 for Dummies. Unfortunately, I don’t personally own a copy of iOS 7 to perform any testing to verify that there aren’t any problems. A helpful reader did test a few examples for me and didn’t report any errors. If you find that you’re having problems with any of the examples in either book, please let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

This issue does serve to point out a problem that I’ve encountered more than a few times in supporting my books. A vendor can release a faulty version of a library, operating system, or other support software required for my books and it will appear that the examples are buggy to the reader. If you read about these sorts of issues, please let me know about them so that I can test the book examples and report back to you here.

 

Obtaining an Editor for Your Web-based Application

One of the things I like most about writing code for Web-based applications is that there are so many libraries out there to make the task simple. You can stitch together libraries to create an application in only a small amount of the time required to create the same application in desktop form and the resulting application is going to be a lot more flexible. (Admittedly, the desktop application is usually prettier and can be faster.) Some time intensive tasks for desktop developers, such as creating an editor, require little or no work when creating a Web-based application. In fact, you can get a number of editors for free as described in my article, “5 Free JavaScript Libraries to Add Text Editing to Your Web Application.”

In this case, I wanted to see what was available in the way of editors. There are quite a large number of editors out there, some paid, some not. After discovering that the scope of my original article idea was too large (just editors in general), I decided to narrow the scope to just those editors that are free. After all, why pay for something you can get free unless you actually need the special features of the paid product?

Unfortunately, I still ended up with too many editors (somewhere in the neighborhood of 20). So, I decided to categorize the editors by complexity and presentation. I ended up with five major categories that span the range from simple to complex. The article contains what I think are the five best editors. Of course, your opinion may vary from mine. The point is, that you have a significant number of editors to choose from, so there is absolutely no reason to ever write code to create your own editor unless you need something truly specialized.

I’m thinking about other sorts of classes of application module for future articles. For example, it might be necessary to create an application where the user can make a simple drawing to show how something is put together or how something has failed. I actually needed such a module when trying to describe the glass panes used in the front of my wood stove not long ago and finally resorted to using paper and faxing it. The graphics module would have been easier, faster, and simpler.

What sorts of modules do you need for your Web-based applications? I’m always looking for good ideas from the people who read my material. Send me your thoughts at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Book Reviews – Doing Your Part

Readers contact me quite a lot about my books. On an average day, I receive around 65 reader e-mails about a wide range of book-related topics. Many of them are complimentary about my books and it’s hard to put down in words just how much I appreciate the positive feedback. Often, I’m humbled to think that people would take time to write.

There is another part to reader participation in books, however, and it doesn’t have anything to do with me—it has to do with other readers. When you read one of my books and find the information useful, it’s helpful to write a review about it so that others can know what to expect. I want to be sure that every reader who purchases one of my books is happy with that purchase and gets the most possible out of the book. The wording that the publisher’s marketing staff and I use to describe a book represents our viewpoint of that book and not necessarily the viewpoint of the reader. The only way that other readers will know how a book presents information from the reader perspective is for other readers to write reviews.

A good review will tell what you liked about the book—how it met your needs, what it provides in the way of usable content, and whether you liked intangibles, such as the author’s writing style. The review should also present any negatives. For example, the book may not have provided detailed enough procedures for you to actually accomplish a task. (Obviously, I want to know about the flaws, too, so that I can correct them in the next edition of the book and also discuss them on my blog.) Many reviewing venues, such as the one found on Amazon, also ask you to provide a rating for the book. You should rate the book based on your experience with other books and on how this particular book met your needs in learning a new topic. The kind of review to avoid writing is a rant or one that isn’t actually based on reading the whole book. As always, I’m here (at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com) to answer any questions you have and many of your questions have appeared as blog posts when the situation warrants.

So, just where do you make these reviews? The publishers sometimes provide a venue for expressing your opinion and you can certainly go to the publisher site to create such a review. I personally prefer to upload my reviews to Amazon because it’s a location that many people frequent to find out more about books. With that in mind, here are the URLs for many of my books. You can go to the site, click Write a Customer Review (near the bottom of the page), and then provide your viewpoint about the book.

 

Thank you in advance for taking the time and effort required to write a review. I know it’s time consuming, but it’s an important task that only you can perform.

 

The Many Appearances of Firewood

Most people are used to viewing firewood as simply cut up logs. The logs are then stacked in cords (128 cu. ft) and proudly displayed outside the home. They have the old homestead or wild west view of wood, with the healthy young male whacking away with an axe and turning perfectly good chunks into kindling. However, real firewood comes in a variety of forms, not just logs. In addition, the wood is often stored in a basement or other area inside the home for easy access and to keep it dry. We actually have firewood in three forms:

 

  • Logs: The old time view of wood cut across the natural growth of the tree. However, unlike the television view of logs, our logs are generally 24″ long and up to 10″ in diameter. No one really takes a huge log and splits it down into kindling (unless absolutely necessary)—they use the copious branches of the tree for that purpose.
  • Disks: A wood stove doesn’t care how the wood is oriented. If you put a piece of wood into the stove, it will eventually burn (assuming the wood is dry). In Splitting the Dreaded Elm I discuss how to avoid splitting elm by cutting the tree into disks that will fit into the wood stove sideways. This means we can burn a tree up to 24″ in diameter without splitting it. Most trees that someone looking for firewood encounters aren’t that size.
  • Slabs: This kind of firewood is actually the focus of this post. Slab wood is what remains when you turn nicer hardwood logs into boards for furniture or other uses. The slabs are bundled together and you cut them to length with a commercial table saw or a chainsaw.


Slab wood is the sort of firewood that you won’t find at your local store and you generally can’t get it delivered by someone who sells firewood. You actually need to know someone who has a sawmill and is willing to sell you the remnants as firewood. What you receive doesn’t really look much like firewood at all. It doesn’t look like a board either—it looks like wood scrap, which is what it is.

Firewood01

The advantages of slab wood are many:

 

  • It costs a lot less than a cord of logs (usually about half).
  • It’s guaranteed dry.
  • The presence of flat surfaces makes it easy to stack.
  • You know you’re getting quality hardwood that won’t clog your chimney.
  • It’s unlikely that the wood will contain any serious pests such as carpenter ants.


Slab wood also has some serious deficiencies:

 

  • It isn’t readily available from most sources.
  • You normally can’t buy just one cord.
  • There is the problem of cutting the slabs to length.
  • It’s absolutely essential that the wood not get wet because it soaks up water like a sponge.
  • You must mix slab wood with other kinds of wood because it tends to burn both hot and quickly.

Our wood pile currently contains all three kinds of wood we use. The pile in the basement of our home has mostly logs and slab wood. The outside pile contains logs and disks. Most of the outside wood currently contains pests, such as carpenter ants. After a good freeze, the ants will be gone and we’ll be able to bring the wood inside a little at a time to burn. In the meantime, we have a wonderful assortment of wood inside to use during the cool autumn months.

Firewood02

So, how do you like your wood (slabs, disks, or logs)? What kinds of wood do you prefer to burn? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

An End to the Written Word

A reader asked the other day whether I thought that books (even e-books) would become outdated—that we would no longer need writing. A quick answer to that question would be no. However, the fact is that writing does serve a particular need. It allows for long term storage of thoughts and ideas so that they can be transmitted long distances, shared by those who don’t interact with the writer, and preserved for posterity. Writing is an old and established form of data storage. It actually replaced an even older data storage technique—the story teller.

Today there are many forms of data storage and writing is only one of them. From a convenience perspective, listening to someone tell you about something is easier than having to learn special symbols and then translate those symbols into spoken words in your head. The use of interactive graphics and demonstrations are far more revealing than translating a written procedure into movement by reading the words and then thinking about what you need to do in order to accomplish the tasks described by the words. For many people, hearing someone speak the words of Shakespeare will present not only the content, but the intonation required to actually understand the words at a deeper level. So, I do look for the written word to disappear from common use at some point (fortunately, not today).

However, even the best speaking, graphical presentation, and animation in the world aren’t up to the task of presenting most abstract ideas. An equation requires the use of symbols to represent the various concepts declared, defined, and solved by the equation. The symbols need not represent anything in the real world. Scientists will continue to require some level of writing to discuss, store, and implement abstract ideas. The presentation of these symbols need not be on paper (in fact, it probably won’t be on paper), but it will be writing nonetheless.

The tone of the conversation was such that I knew the reader was actually wondering whether I thought I might someday be out of a job. Writing is simply a tool that authors use to store ideas. Whether the author uses words or some other means of presenting ideas is immaterial, the ideas remain. It may very well be that I’ll eventually resort to other methods to present the ideas that form in my thoughts and that the creative expression of those ideas will take a different form. I don’t see myself as losing an occupation, but of having methods that my predecessors could only dream about to interact with my readers.

In short, it appears to me that eventually not everyone will know how to write because other forms of information exchange will become easier and more flexible. Some people already do all of their banking without writing anything—many other tasks will follow suit. Tomorrow, writing may not even be a part of the curriculum in grade schools. Students will learn some form of symbolic presentation in college as part of their professional courses and only professionals will use writing at all. However, I don’t see writing ever going away completely. Let me know your thoughts about the written word at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.