Ex Bibliotheca

The life and times of Zack Weinberg.

Tuesday, 12 February 2002

# 11:30 PM

Shifted January to the archives, only two weeks later than I should have.

# 11 PM

Today in class, we were invited to critique user-interface toolkits we have used—as in, have written software using. Most of the code I've written has been batch-mode command line applications, so I don't have a huge amount of experience here. (Which isn't to say that user interface design for a batch-mode command line program is either unnecessary or trivial, of course.)

However, I do have a criticism to level, which is: A GUI toolkit should make it easy to say what you mean. For instance, consider the overall page layout of this blog. The specification, expressed in English, would read something like this:

...Below the title and subtitle, there shall be two columns. The left column is to have a yellow background, and small sans-serif text. It shall be only as wide as the text inside requires, plus some padding on all sides. The right column shall take up the remainder of the horizontal width of the page, stretching to fit. It is to have no special background or font selection.

I have still not figured out how to express that in HTML and CSS. The sticking point is the "only as wide" bit. You can say "N pixels no more no less" or "X percent the width of the page", but as far as I can tell you can't say "size this according to what's inside with no stretch."

After class I went to the engineering library and printed out five papers which seem to be relevant to my project. I could have kept going; those five came from the first two keyword searches I ran. I think five is enough for one batch, though.

The library has cute software for tracking how much printing you do and charging it to your copier card. It's named after the world's first known lighthouse, Pharos. I'm not sure why.