The random eclecticisms of loonytoons

Posts by: loonytoons


My Tech Story

I was recently approached by a friend of mine about writing an article describing my career in tech for a new campaign that she was putting together, My Tech Story for The Tech Partnership. This is a great initiate aiming to encourage and interest people in the careers and opportunities available in the technology industry, and part of this is through sharing the stories and experiences of a variety of people already working or studying in the industry. As my career route hasn’t exactly been the most commonplace one, she thought that my story would provide an interesting alternative to some of the standard stories that you might hear out there. As I believe it’s important to encourage young people, especially women, to consider a career in tech, I readily agreed, and you can read my story here: My Tech Story took me to Auckland as a software developer. I have to admit to being a little nervous about this article though, to the point where I emailed a friend of mine asking for her opinion on it and whether she thought it was a good idea for me to blog about it or not. Luckily she told me to stop being ridiculous as it was great and immediately tweeted the link. Thanks Lorna :-). Why did I ask though? Well that’s the hard question. I guess that for the most part I avoid talking about how I got to where I am today unless I know the person I’m talking to or I’m in a social setting where the information is unlikely to leave the room. It’s not really a conscious decision as such, I’d just rather not talk about it. Why? The only answer I’ve got is everyone’s favourite friend, Imposter Syndrome. For some reason, despite knowing that I’m really good at what I do, an...

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Web Writing Tips

Note: I originally wrote this for a company blog, but this has since been taken down. Things to consider when writing for the web Since it’s inception the internet has become an invaluable tool for many businesses and organisations as a way of marketing themselves and providing relevant information direct to their customers. Content management systems have allowed website owners to take full control over their own content and this ability to update the site and content on demand is key to realising the full potential of having a website. However a website is only as good as the content that is provided and once you’ve worked hard to compile the information that you want to display, you then want to make sure that your information is approachable and easy to read. Writing for the web is not like any other kind of writing. Internet users have a whole wealth of information available to them on any topic that you can imagine. You need to make sure that once they have arrived on your page they are instantly engaged and encouraged to look around the rest of your site. The decision to stay or go is usually taken within the first 5 seconds, so first impressions really do count. Structural Layout The way that your web page is presented can work to either draw users in or scare them off. Internet users have a tendency to quickly scan pages to gauge it’s relevance to them before deciding to read further or not, so it’s important to make sure that your information is clearly laid out and easy to follow. Below is a list of points that should help to keep your content approachable: Don’t use large blocks of text – these are intimidating and can be difficult to read...

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StageFright – resources on public speaking

Background I’ve been to quite a few technical conferences now and at pretty much each event I got involved in discussions about public speaking and presentation techniques. This is partly because I’m friends with a lot of regular speakers who often get asked for advice about getting into speaking or who are looking for feedback and tips about their own performance. The rise of feedback services like joind.in also serve to highlight that there is a lot more to presenting a topic than simply standing up and delivering the information. How much information should you include in your slides, and in what format? Should you even have slides? How do you deal with the nerves? How do you even get your talk accepted at an event in the first place? Just how do those regular speakers do it and make it look so easy? There are so many aspects to presenting, particularly when it comes to fairly dry technical topics, that if you’re looking to start out speaking or improve your technique it can be difficult to know where to start. Announcing StageFright This is why I’ve started StageFright. It’s a simple project that aims to list in one place all the really great online content relating to public speaking. Due to the field that I’m in there will be an unconscious bias towards sources originating from the open source development community, but that isn’t the aim of the site and all of the resources will be relevant in some way to anyone regardless of their location, talk topic or audience. Contribute It’s also simple to add resources that you come across yourself. StageFright is hosted on GitHub so simply send a pull request or create an issue to contribute. I, and anyone who visits StageFright looking for help,...

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Starting to speak

I never thought I would write a blog post about this, but last week I gave my first ever talk! It was a presentation for work about structured data markup as part of our regular frontend forums. As most of the audience were people that I work with on a regular basis I knew that they would be on my side, but I was still terrified of getting up in front of them all and talking for 45 minutes. I don’t like being the centre of attention, it’s not what I do, and due to a lingering case of imposter syndrome, I’m only just accepting the fact that I am actually pretty good at what I do. So being the focus at the front of the room presenting a talk of my own devising was probably about the last thing that I wanted to be doing. So why do it? Conversely I mainly agreed to do this because I knew it was so far outside of my comfort zone. It was a non-technical challenge that would test me in very different ways, and I was intrigued whether I’d actually be able to pull it off or not. It’s also never a bad thing to put your name out there and improve your visibility within a community or organisation. By nature I am an introvert who is much happier working in the background, and in the short term this isn’t a problem and works pretty well for me. But to move to the next level or to be thought of when a cool opportunity or project comes along, you need to make sure people know who you are and what you do. You need to make some noise even if it goes against the grain. No one else is going to...

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Add structured data to your html content

Structured data markup for html has been around for a while, but it can be confusing and isn’t always seen as a priority to implement. Its usage by the big search engines and other organisations is only going to increase though, so it’s well worth getting your head around it and start marking up as much content as you can to take advantage of the current and potential future benefits. It seems clear to me that this kind of markup will play an increasingly bigger part in seo as well as allowing the data to be used in other ways, such as a wider variety of rich snippets on the search results pages. From the schema.org FAQs: “over time you can expect that more data will be used in more ways. In addition, since the markup is publicly accessible from your web pages, other organizations may find interesting new ways to make use of it as well.” Presentation Last week I gave a presentation at work to try and spread the word, and at the same time discovered just what a large and interesting topic this is. I intend to write more on this topic but in the meantime here are my slides. The topics that I cover are: why adding structured data markup is a good idea specific benefits gained the different types of markup – RDFa, microformats, microdata, schema.org some general implementation guidelines helpful tools links to some bit.ly bundles <– some of these are really interesting, I urge you to check them out Pimp your content with structured data from loonytoons Note: I do feel bad blogging about this without having markup on my own blog. I am currently working to redo the design and templates though, so will remedy it soon!

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git error setting certificate verify locations

I came across this error having setup a windows vista machine to clone a github repo using msysgit: error: error setting certificate verify locations: CAfile: /bin/curl-ca-bundle.crt CApath: none It turns out it’s just a problem with the path, all you need to do is reset this info and it should be alright: git config --system http.sslcainfo /bin/curl-ca-bundle.crt If you run got config -l you can check the git configuration to see exactly what all the settings are.

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Magento – product zoom for tall thin images

Current version : 1.4.2.0 While reworking a 1.3.2.3 magento template to work for magento 1.4, I had an issue on a product page where a tall thin image was not being resized correctly by the product zoom javascript. The script seemed to think that the image was small enough to fit inside the image container and so the image was not shrunk and the zoom in bar was disabled, despite the fact that around a third of the image was hidden behind the zoom bar itself. Digging into it, it turns out that the width of an image is the main dimension used to calculate if the image is oversized or not. But as my image was tall and thin it was the hieght causing the problem and not the width. I fixed this by simply amending the javascript in /js/varien/product.js. In the scale function, which is around line 128, change the line that calculates the variable ‘oversize’ from this: var overSize = (this.imageDim.width > this.containerDim.width && this.imageDim.height > this.containerDim.height); to this: var overSize = (this.imageDim.width > this.containerDim.width || this.imageDim.height > this.containerDim.height); This makes sure that an image is marked as oversize if either the width or hieght exceed the container size, rather than both. Then in the if statement below, amend the first if from this: if (this.imageDim.width > this.containerDim.width) { this.imageEl.style.width = (this.imageZoom*this.containerDim.width)+'px'; } to this: if (this.imageDim.width > this.containerDim.width) { this.imageEl.style.width = (this.imageZoom*this.containerDim.width)+'px'; } else if (this.imageDim.height > this.containerDim.height) { this.imageEl.style.height = (this.imageZoom*this.containerDim.height)+'px'; } This then resizes the image based on the height of the image if the width is not the reason for the oversize.

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Magento payment broken continue button

Current magento version: 1.4.1.1 We recently upgraded a magento site to version 1.4.1.1 as part of moving the site to a new server. Everything seemed to run smoothly with no issues, job done. However it didn’t take long for  the customer to ring up – ‘My site’s broken, no one can make payments anymore’. Once customer had entered their credit card details they found that the continue button did not work at all, they were stuck on the payment screen. Uh oh, time to dig around checking the server setups, looking for any reported issues with authorize.net (the payment engine being used) and checking into the changes made in the magento upgrade. Amazingly the problem turned out to be that in latest version of magento, they had included a new javascript file for validating the payment variables input by the user and without this file the payment process would just stop at the card input screen and refuse to go any further. The solution is simple. Just add the following line of code to your themes page.xml (in the layouts folder) and all should be fine: <action method="addJs"><script>lib/ccard.js</script></action> Everything would have been fine if we’d been using the default theme, or if we hadn’t had to override the default page.xml with our own version for our theme. It just makes me wonder if there was some way that developers could be notified when key changes are made to files, especially to theme files that are overwritten in most installs to avoid such head scratching and long periods of debugging in the future. As far as I can tell this wasn’t even mentioned in the release notes. Do let me know if I’m wrong though and varien do actually release such useful information!

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Day Camp For Developers 2010

On the 6th of November there’s an interesting new online event happening that I wanted to draw your attention to. Day Camp 4 Developers is an event aimed at all programmers regardless of your favoured language of use, as it focuses more on soft skills rather than specific technical ones (which I’m sure we all like to think we rock at anyway). Soft skills often get overlooked though, which is possibly foolish as they can be key factor affecting our career progression and ability to become a valued well-rounded team member. I’ve heard most of the speakers speak before and can highly recommend them for their ability to present information in an interesting and engaging way. Even if you can’t watch them live on the day, the sessions will be available for you to watch anytime at your own convenience, so there’s really nothing to stop you! Check out the sessions here and book here to reserve your place.

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jQuery slideToggle and ie7

I had an interesting issue where in ie7, the element that I was displaying using the jQuery slideToggle function, would seem to jump out of place once the animation had finished. As I was displaying a list, I first assumed that in ie7 the element was adding in the default list margins and ignoring my css. However no amount of fiddling with adding css margins in the slideToggle callback function seemed to sort the problem. Googling allowed me to find a solution here that worked, although I have no idea why it works. Basically I needed to add a min-height of 0px on the parent element, and set the height of the ul that I was trying to display to 100%. Problem sorted!

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