Category Archives: Rants

2017-2021, a Quick Recap

Hmm. So. It’s been over 5 years it looks like.

I guess the only appropriate update would be a recap of the last 5 years.

Seems like nobody blogs anymore these days, and as far as I know nobody goes here unless they’re some figment of my past or a hiring manager trying to see what ol’ Chris is up to. If you’re new here, welcome to my blog, where every once in awhile I bring my loyal viewers the mundane details of my life outside of social media.

COVID happened. That’s a topic all its own. I’ve been lucky thus far but have seen a lot of death and destruction around me. I’m vaccinated. Please consult your doctor if you are not and take their advice.

3 job changes. Career shakeup partially due to COVID, times were rough at the beginning.

Finally discovered the glory of Laravel, Node, and React. Not such a JS luddite anymore as you may have seen from past entries but then again, most of the stuff I disliked 5 years ago is long dead now as times continue to change.

Flash is dead, and the web is better for it. In 2010 when Steve Jobs infamously put the first nail in its coffin, it wasn’t ready. HTML5 and CSS3 were in their infancy, mobile devices were slow, and the content creation tools didn’t exist yet. All that changed eventually and it’s time to say goodbye to a technology I used a hell of a lot of through the years. There is an obvious lack of creative and complex interactivity these days than what we used to have in the ancient Flash/Shockwave/Java/ActiveX (lol) era, but I imagine some of that come back one day when mobile devices get more capable. Until then I don’t miss it all that much.

Medical bills have gotten in the way of the debt-free life, but nothing I can’t dig my way out of soon enough.

Still rocking the 15 year mortgage. Been 10 years of headache now. 5 more years and it’ll be paid off. People who know me, know I have what I call the “five year plan” and never shut up about it. It’s both a plan starting now, working up to the mortgage payoff so I can hit my semi-retirement running, and also the plan for how I’m going to invest in money-saving and quality-of-life improvements once I’m finally able.

Went through a couple of bouts with some kind of depression and continue to live with a mild form of it, likely due to chronic pain. I guess that’s my excuse for not writing, and also my excuse for writing again.

Was big into tiki and craft cocktails for awhile there. Still sort of am. I go to bars much less often these days for obvious reasons.

Not as huge into home automation anymore, but many of these dusty old gadgets are still chugging along, passively enriching my life. Some of them demanded too much attention and were cut loose.

I’ve made a few new friends along the way. Have occasional D&D nights, book clubs, pool/hot tub parties, fun stuff like that. But for the most part laying low while the pandemic engulfs Florida.

My tropical plants all died in the unusually awful winter of 2018. Got into permaculture and edible perennials recently and am slowly building a food forest in my yard.

My ego has been knocked down a few notches over the years. It’s humbling and needed to happen. At the same time I’ve overcome a lot of impostor syndrome, which is hard to shake in IT.

I’ve been having chronic headaches for years now. Still trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and so far nothing has worked, but for now I get by as best I can with literally neverending pain.

The whole Trump thing happened. Probably a whole other topic to elaborate on (or not). But it’s weird to look back at it and think, wow, all that stuff happened. That weird old orange guy from reality TV was president and things went as you might have expected.

This country and much of the world has changed a lot in 5 years, and not for the better. So many of us are bitterly divided over everything. Everything. Even things that don’t matter. The rest are terrified to talk about anything for fear of losing even more friends and family. If I could only have one wish, I’d wish we could all just go mentally back to that time before the mid 2000s, before the left and right turned literally everything into a culture war, when we could all agree to disagree without wishing death on everyone else.

Got me an electric car in 2018, a 2016 Nissan Leaf, gently used. So far I’ve done nothing to it but change the tires, cabin filter, and wiper fluid, and it has been an amazing car.

My grandfather, Emery Bartek passed away a few years ago, leaving me with no more living grandparents. His passing was a bit tougher on me than I expected; this and the loss of others seems to have initiated the page flip that started a new chapter in my life. The wakeup call that I’m getting older and I, too, will die one day.

So many people and places I loved are gone now. It’s hard to wrap my head around how much things have changed in my life in general over the last 5 years.

I plan to write more this year, but as mentioned above, I’m in constant pain which makes doing so far less enjoyable than in the past. I’ll try the best I can.

Until then, cheers, and have a happy new year.

On the Subject of Guns and Murder

Today, I woke up in my flame-retardant bed, and took a shower with treated water that probably won’t give me legionnaire’s disease. The air outside is clean because the factories across the river have to meet EPA standards. I get in a car and proceed to perform the incredibly dangerous act of driving, but I’ll probably survive; My car is tagged, titled, licensed, insured, equipped with dozens of safety features, and passes government efficiency requirements (it’s not a VW). I listen to an FCC-regulated radio that is required to alert me if there is a natural disaster looming, and probably won’t give me brain cancer. I pass under bridges, jets, and cranes that probably won’t fall on me because they go through mandatory inspections. While I’m away from home, it probably won’t collapse since it was built and wired to national, state, and local engineering codes. Everyone at work has been vaccinated so I probably won’t get a life-threatening illness. I probably won’t get hurt on the job because of OSHA laws. I use a computer that probably won’t burst into flames because it is UL listed. I eat lunch at a place that has been inspected by the county so it probably isn’t rat infested, and the food I eat meets FDA standards, so it probably won’t give me salmonella. I get my paycheck on time because the state requires it. After work, I go to a movie, but despite the 1st Amendment, people can’t yell “FIRE!” in the crowded theater without probably facing criminal charges.

Now imagine a deranged man bursts into this dark theater, locks the doors, and kills most of us. He bought his guns the same day, easily and legally, without any sort of regulation that should have kept him from doing so. This is the reality of living in the United States. And you know what? I’m tired of ignoring the elephant in the room.

The point I’m getting at is twofold: First, laws and regulations are necessary and save lives. The point of living under a government is to promote the general welfare, as long as it is constitutionally legal. Second, in a free country we don’t ban/outlaw things, because that is almost always the wrong approach. When cars were invented and killed lots of people, we didn’t give up and ban them; we put a massive amount of regulations on them and every single year since, the death rate has dropped. Almost nobody is trying to cheat the system and buy “black market cars” and fake licenses. At the same time, nobody looked at at all the car deaths 100 years ago and thought, “whelp, cars are dangerous in the wrong hands and people are just gonna keep dying. Traffic lights won’t work, people will run them anyway. Let’s just have the wild west out on the streets because freedom.”

This is why Americans are sick of near zero regulation of firearms. The vast majority of people don’t want to take your guns away. They don’t want to repeal the 2nd Amendment. They WANT you to keep your guns, protect yourself, and enjoy them as long as you’re sane and responsible (and nearly all gun owners are). They just want the same common sense gun laws nearly every other country in the world has, because they work. Not 100% of the time of course, but they make a difference and save lives.

Additional thoughts on the US gun murder epidemic

1) More or fewer guns is not a solution. There are no reliable stats that suggest the quantity of guns will change the murder rate. Show me one that says one thing, and I’ll show you one that says the opposite.
2) Banning gun-free zones is a bad idea. Just like you might have concerns with someone coming into your house with a gun, a private establishment should have the right to make their own decisions. However, these establishments should be subject to lawsuits if they make no attempt to provide ample security while being gun-free.
3) I don’t think anyone is making the argument to “ban” all guns. That’s impossible and unconstitutional anyway. But I do think that every state should be able to decide what constitutes a well-regulated militia to the extent “necessary to the security of a free State.”
4) Like driving, you should need to pass tests and get a license to own guns. It should be more difficult than walking into a gun show. To me, this is a bare minimum definition of a well-regulated militia. If you haven’t proven your ability to safely own and use a firearm, I don’t think the Constitution is talking about you.
5) Like driving, you should need to carry liability insurance for every gun you own. This will require a third party to analyze each person’s risk factors (illness, medications, history, location, etc.), and they would be incentivized not to insure high-risk individuals and certain firearm configurations. A gun would not be purchasable or transferable without proof of said insurance. Uninsured gun = fines. Insured gun stolen = fines. Insured gun used in crime = fines for insurance company and payout to those affected.
6) Keeping guns from getting stolen or used by children is your responsibility, and an extremely important one. Put a GPS tracker in your gun safe. Some states could have laws requiring this.
7) “Stuff happens” is not a helpful solution. Of course murder will keep happening with or without gun laws, just like drunk driving will happen with or without DUI laws. The point is there are actions we can take to help prevent gun murder and make guns much more difficult to obtain for those that shouldn’t have them.
8) We need to come to serious terms with the mental health issues in this country and what is causing them. I have a feeling the answers are all things none of us want to hear, and that’s why we aren’t asking the questions.

Attention Web Designers

Please stop doing the following.

Creating external links without a default target=_blank. You might be against it for whatever religious reason, but this doesn’t change the fact that people expect this behavior. I’m looking at you, Reddit.

Unnecessarily modifying the URL as you scroll through a page or highlight text. This makes me have to hit the back button 20 times.

Loading your title tags up with SEO garbage instead of my location on your page. This doesn’t help your SEO, and it makes tabbed browsing frustrating.

Infinite scrolling. Unless you can save the user’s position after they return to the page from clicking something, don’t do this. The user will have to scroll all the way from the top, wasting the user’s time and wasting your bandwidth even more.

Creating floating divs that pop up when you hover over text. I’m trying to read here.

Designing a website to be mobile-first without appropriately scaling up. This is just as bad as making a non-responsive website.

Needlessly using custom scrollbar solutions. These tend to break a lot and suddenly snap me back to the top of the page, or stop scrolling altogether. They also don’t scroll the way the user expects.

Using Hashbangs for AJAX crawling. That is so 2010. There are better ways to do this now.

Making black and white, animated on hover, circular cutouts for your About Us photos. Good lord, this is overplayed.

Outsourcing your blog to Tumblr. This is tacky. And what’s the point? Are you trying to anger the Google Gods? Or has Rails backed you into a corner with bad WordPress knockoffs?

Using slow CDNs. It sorta defeats the purpose.

Requiring users to use an app or sign in with Facebook. I leave every time, no exceptions.

Populating the meta keywords. No search engine since the 90s uses these. All you’re doing is giving the competition a glance into your marketing strategy.

Skeumorphism. No more cloth and wood backgrounds.

Java and Flash. The world really needs to move on now.

The 21st Century Gentleman

In the middle of one of those tired old “is chivalry dead?” arguments I got to thinking about what makes a modern gentleman. Given that chivalry is no longer part of what makes a gentleman (good riddance), it raises the question of how a classy gentleman could be defined these days. I think this is pretty much how I would define it, and by the way, in the spirit of equality, this list should generally apply to ladies as well.

Rule 1: Absolutely no fedoras. Being an obnoxiously-dressed neckbeard does not make one a gentleman. Unless you can successfully rock a zoot suit in your ’90s style ska band, don’t wear a fedora/trilby… and if you are in a ska band, you should really question the direction your life is going.

Rule 2: The modern gentleman rarely discusses religion and politics. When he does, it is discussed with tact and civility, and usually only with friends and family. A gentleman does not spread fake quotes through social media and complain about political correctness. He does not spend his time on social media whining about being short-changed by some race/gender/orientation. He does not post conspiracy theories on social media.

Rule 3: A gentleman brushes his teeth. Shaves. Smells nice. I don’t know why I have to post this, but a gentleman does not make public distasteful noises and/or smells with his body. For some reason IT staff have a hard time grasping this.

Rule 4: A gentleman has a go-to drink. Maybe he enjoys single malt whisky. Maybe he’s more of a mai-tai guy (no shame in that in the 21st century). If he’s creative, he has his own signature cocktails. He has something he can come home to after a hard day.

Rule 5: A gentleman is chivalrous… to everyone. Chivalry is dead not because it’s wrong to be nice to women, but because equal courtesy should be extended to men as well. Be respectful to all that haven’t lost your respect, but never be patronizing or sexist.

Rule 6: A gentleman respects that everyone has a different journey in life. Until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, never accuse them of having some sort of privilege that you don’t, or that their lifestyle is inferior to yours. That’s tacky and rude. So what if someone was born into a rich family? So what if someone is on welfare?

Rule 7: A gentleman has hobbies, but doesn’t take them too far. Men are the worst at this. Don’t spend a large portion of your money to complete a video game collection or buy recreational drugs. Don’t have more cars than will fit in your garage. Don’t own 142 guns. And for the love of God, don’t buy giant inflatable ponies to keep in your bedroom.

Rule 8: A gentleman knows when to censor himself. Restrain yourself from overuse of expletives, or they lose their effect. A 21st century gentleman can curse sparingly, but not within earshot of unknown parties. Avoid discussions of genitalia, especially at the table. Art is art, but conversation is ultimately an art of restraint.

Rule 9: A gentleman can find social and intellectual well-being without drugs and alcohol, if necessary. A gentleman knows his limit and actively avoids getting drunk and obnoxious.

Rule 10: A gentleman is never a victim. A gentleman accepts their life as the sum of what they have put into it. It may not be exactly what they want it to be, but…

Rule 11: A gentleman is driven. They know what they want out of their life, and they spend every day trying to achieve. However, a gentleman is capable of relaxing and leaving work problems at work.

Rule 12: A gentleman has few enemies. They don’t start petty fights on social media. They forgive those who have wronged them, because having many enemies makes life even more difficult and emotionally draining.

Rule 13: A gentleman does not objectify the gender of his affection. However, he doesn’t allow the opposite sex to shame him when he wants to empower himself.

Rule 14: A gentleman is calm. He doesn’t freak out over things. A gentleman doesn’t get outraged every week on Facebook.

Rule 15: A gentleman is unique. You cannot place a gentleman into a subculture just by looking at him. He is not part of any collective. He is himself, and is comfortable being himself.

Rule 16: A gentleman is independent. He is organized and knows how to cook and clean when necessary. He doesn’t rely on others to carry him through life.

Rule 17: A gentleman surprises others with their compassion when it is not expected. He is kind and charitable.

Rule 18: A gentleman does not enter into a relationship he does not belong in.

Rule 19: A gentleman has healthy masculinity, but is not afraid of having a feminine side. Some may wear a scarf. Some may carry a man-purse. But no hipster may ever be a gentleman (see #15).

Rule 20: A gentleman does not boast about his finances, and lives a modest lifestyle.

Disclaimer: I am not the perfect gentleman, as I fail a few rules. Most people do. In my opinion, one should strive for as many of these as possible.

All this pretense. It has to stop.

.guru domain names? That’s so 2006. Why not .rockstar, .ninja, or .zombiecloudevangelist? How am I supposed to be a pretentious expert on the internets with only one vanity TLD to choose from?

No, I’m not really here to whine about top level domain names, but I am going to rant nonetheless. And this rant has been a long time coming, so sit back (or run away).

This whole industry is sick – and I mean the whole thing – broken. I hate this.

I hate that being a web designer means you have to belt out the same tired “San Francisco startup” website, or the “Cupertino frosted glass flat UI” look. I hate that if you try to stray from these two designs, some turtlenecked UX team lead will throw your portfolio in the trash.

I hate that being a backend developer requires you to learn some unproven language that got invented last month so the CTO can impress people in his mentor circle. I hate that the industry, after all these years, is still focused primarily on esoteric concepts like programming languages, as if syntax will make any measurable difference in your project’s outcome.

I hate that being a frontend developer has turned from an artform to a Bootstrap and Angular lovefest. I hate that I like Bootstrap and Angular.

I hate that startups have become wild idealist utopias for urbanites to pretend they’re making a difference while funding their caffeine addictions. I hate that I don’t want to live downtown simply because the fixie-obsessed fake people who live there make me feel dead inside.

I hate that being a designer means you have to put mustaches and birds all over everything dang thing. I hate that the art of design has been all but lost in the fits-all world of One Right Palette. One Right Framework. One Right Strategy.

I hate that we’re all visually screened in Skype interviews to make sure we wear an ample amount of man-scarves, facial hair, or nerd glasses. I hate that I somewhat fit this description.

I hate that we take orders from Chris Coyier, James Padolsey, and Jony Ive like they’re some kind of warlords that will lead us to a happy rainbow battle. I hate that your own ideas are garbage until they copy off you, at which point it becomes genius.

I hate that I build stuff nobody asked for, with no research to back up its purpose. I hate how it all gets thrown out in the end, with maybe a shred or two left to the Github wolves.

I hate that analysts play up the death of the desktop, while ignoring the soon-to-come trend of mobile burnout once the market hits saturation. I hate that this is all becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I hate the mobile-first ideology that is responsible for ugly, uninspired desktop experiences. I hate that these are being created and championed by people who call themselves user experience experts, who know how to create great responsive websites but choose to be lazy.

I hate that every website wants to present me with some kind of dizzying parallaxed nightmare because there’s a jQuery plugin on one of Smashing’s top 10 lists that makes it easy. I hate that I wrote one of those plugins.

I hate that designers are forgetting the art of good design and selling out to the marketing science and tech whimsy. I hate how every self-proclaimed internet ninja fancies themselves social marketing experts.

I hate that when ideas are born in the industry, the first question is, “how much could I beg for this on Kickstarter before Google buys me?” I hate how I can’t remember the punctuation rules for that last sentence.

I hate that Big Data is driving every new management decision. I hate how nobody really knows what Big Data is.

I hate SCRUM worship. I hate lean worship. I hate the worship of one-size-fits-all ideas.

I hate how we’ve gotten caught up in this gold rush of “the next big thing.” I hate how the tech media is trying to invent the need for wearables and the internet of things.

I hate all this interdependence on random cloud APIs. I hate how these APIs keep getting rewritten or disappear altogether.

I hate that I have to delete my voicemails without even listening to them, due to sheer magnitude of job recruiters contacting me even though I removed my resume listings months ago (because Career Builder sucks). I hate how, 5 years from now, I’m going to look back at that statement and shake my head.

I hate how I’m expected to move to The Valley if I want to be someone in the industry. I hate how, in the age of the Internet, this somehow matters.

I hate that I’ve had this iPad for over a year and can’t figure out what to do with it besides watch Cookie Monster sing Tom Waits songs. I hate that I faced an epic inner conflict about whether or not to target=”_blank” that link.

I hate how nobody really knows what I do. I hate how my industry job title has changed four times, but I’m still doing the exact same job.

I hate how “innovation” doesn’t stand for anything anymore. I hate how it has been reduced to another corporate buzzword, or to describe peanut butter flavored Pop-Tarts.

I hate the fakeness. I hate the pointlessness.

I hate that I wrote this, and I hate that you had to read it.

Mobile vs. PC, Where We Are and Where We’re Going

Let’s get real for a few minutes.

Believe it or not, PCs serve an important purpose: to get important stuff done. Think of it like semis vs. cars. One one end, you have something that gets you from A to B. On the other end, you have a hulking machine built to haul 10 tons or more. They’re huge, ugly, and burn energy, but they do what a car simply won’t do in its form factor. As much as I would love to have a PC that fit in my pocket, the reality is this won’t be happening for a very long time.

I built my desktop to be a stuff-doing station. It has 16GB of RAM, an 8-core 64-bit processor, a video card that cost an embarrassing amount of money, and banks upon banks of peripherals. Shrinking down this computer anytime soon would be impossible. I mean, the video card alone is probably the size of around 15 iPhones. Multi-terabyte drives are the size of 3 iPhones. Running on ARM could probably shrink down the other internals, but we’ve already got a huge problem for real-world work if we can’t manage to shrink down storage and video cards at a decent price.

What do we need that stuff for? Well, let’s look at the PC audience. Gamers, they need those video cards, maybe even 2 or 3 of them. Video editors, they’ll need a good video card as well, plus RAM and serious HDD space, not to mention speed. 3D artists will need a rendering farm (the cloud won’t do), specialty video cards, and loads of RAM. Graphic designers mostly need adequate screens, but they also need adequate processing and human interfaces. Businesses simply need adequate interfaces and access to Office. Engineers and scientists also need adequate interface and processing power. Desktop computers are massive, hot, and loud, because, well, they’re doing some pretty hardcore stuff. The wonderful thing about the mobile revolution is we no longer need to use them for basic tasks like web surfing and social media, but there are people in this world that need them to do their jobs.

So where do I see things in a few years? I think we’ll still see both devices, and I think we’ll finally see real docking stations, but I don’t think we’ll see actual tablets or smartphones being used as PC replacements. This might possibly work in the business world (and it would be kinda cool and probably seal the deal for BYOD), but smartphones still have a ways to go before you can use them for other purposes. Eventually things will miniaturize, but who knows if they’ll catch up to the raw power, customization, and upgradability of a desktop. We really need a way to dock our devices together in a synergistic (I hate that word, sorry) fashion to share data efficiently, but it seems like a lesson in futility at this point to try and replace the desktop completely, especially if your peripherals will be taking up lots of space anyway. I mean, a tablet won’t be replacing your mouse and keyboard in production (if you disagree, you’ve never designed or developed anything in your life). A tablet won’t replace your dual monitor setup, or your RAID, your subwoofer, etc. so what’s the big deal about having a box to better process your serious work? Desktops aren’t just a box, they’re a human interface and peripheral setup that has stayed consistent for decades for good reason.

So I touched on modularity being absent on smartphones, so let’s talk about the recent social media interest in the Phoneblok concept. I think we’ve all had this idea at some point in time, and it really is a great idea. Obviously there are some engineering challenges with what they portray, but that’s not to say it’s impossible to do. If good ideas were easy to engineer, we’d run out of good ideas. That said, some of this concept is pretty silly. Some thoughts of mine.

– There’s no shame in merging similar functionality. Wifi, Bluetooth, and NFC should probably be merged into one block. I mean seriously, when was the last time your Bluetooth broke on your phone? Heck, when was the last time you used Bluetooth?
– The block and pin idea would probably be flaky. They should have gone a different direction, like PCI card slots… rails and a pinout on the end. This would make engineering much simpler and avoid having the phone burst into 10 pieces if you drop it.
– Simplify. Instead of trying to modularize everything, just have slots for where things will go. Have everything held together by a battery on top, then have 1 CPU slot, 1 big card slot, and 4 small slots. That way you don’t have to tear your hair out second-guessing the user’s configuration. A battery and a CPU have no hardware interface commonalities.
– Don’t pretend this is greener. In all honesty, the Phonebloks idea might actually increase waste, and it will certainly up the manufacturing costs.
– In the real world, most of these things are crammed into a single board or chip. This is how they are able to make the devices so cheap and fast. Separating everything out means a headache for the manufacturers of these chips, and the engineers that have to deal with the interfacing.

I’m willing to bet someone will eventually try to tackle this problem, but it won’t be something from Kickstarter. Just my two cents.

Thumbprints are not Passwords

After every Apple keynote, you can always expect to read the same type of sensationalist article. You know, the “Is this the end of _______ as we know it?” Well, iPads didn’t kill PCs, Siri didn’t kill Google search, and thumbprint scanners will NOT kill passwords.

See, biometrics aren’t really in the same vein as passwords; they’re really more of a supplement, or a verification of a person’s prescence, like a PIN number or SMART card. They’re not trying to be passwords, they’re something else entirely. They’re just trying to make life difficult enough for people who aren’t you, or at least difficult enough without a specialized computer. Even a 6 digit PIN only has 1,000,000 combinations, which would take a computer seconds to brute force, but that’s beside the point.

The point I’m going to make is that biometrics have similar flaws that don’t make it suitable as a password replacement. In all fairness, replacing a PIN number is really all Apple is trying to accomplish at this point, and I think that’s great, so it’s the media that has it all wrong.

So what’s wrong with thumbprints compared to passwords? Just off the top of my head…

  • Thumbprints cannot be changed, revoked, or reset. If someone knows your thumbprint hash, you’re out of luck, forever. If you are concerned about the NSA, this should terrify you.
  • You are limited to 10 thumbprints. And even then, you’re not going to remember which finger you used for what website.
  • They technically aren’t replacing a password, A thumbprint is read as a hash and stored as a shadow password. It will especially work this way for websites.
  • The thumbprint reader and software introduces failure points. A hacker could take control of these systems and force a certain hash without scanning a thumb. A man in the middle could read the hardware interaction and simulate it later.
  • Thumbprints aren’t secret. You leave traces of your fingerprints on everything. Especially mobile devices.
  • Technology exists to “lift”, analyze, and reproduce said fingerprints, and it will only improve with demand.
  • Some people have stubborn fingerprints. Me, for instance. When I worked for the University, we went through several thumb and handprint timeclocks the professors had to use. Those machines hated me. One of them would routinely make me scan 8-10 times before it would get a match, while it worked fine for everyone else. I think it had to do with my hands always sweating.
  • They add a failure point for the device. As someone who has owned several scanners through the years… these things break. On a PC it’s not a big deal, you can run out any buy the same brand thumbprint scanner, but what happens when it breaks on your iPhone? You buy a new phone, and you don’t get your data back.
  • You can’t let a trusted party use your thumbprint when you’re away.
  • You can damage your thumbprint. What if you burn your thumb while cooking dinner? You could be locked out of your computer for weeks, or in some cases, permanently.
  • There hasn’t been much study on this, but thumbprints could be prone to hash collisions, especially if you are forced to scan a “backup finger”. Different biometric technologies, or course, will vary greatly.
  • Your actual thumb could get stolen. Don’t laugh, it has happened. Some thieves are willing to cut off your thumb if it will give them complete, unrevokable access to your entire life.
  • Biometric hardware does not give standard readings, so you’re at the mercy of a third party to maintain access to your accounts. If you replace one piece of hardware with another brand, it will probably not give the right hash.

Passwords, of course, have problems of their own, but they are still the most secure and sensible way to protect your data. Even something easy to remember like “iLikeBag3lsAndCr3amcheese_” is incredibly secure for years to come. The thing is, security is up to you. Your password should be long. It should have caps, numbers, and special characters. You should not use the same password twice. It should not be obvious, and you should not write it down. Follow these rules and you have very little to worry about, besides forgetting it.

What’s the right way to go about authentication? I dunno, I’m not a security expert. I would say multi-factor authentication is always best, so maybe a password-protected SMART cart would be the best way.

Icon Fonts: The Vast Wingding Conspiracy

Icon FontsThe latest trend in web design is to use fonts to do render glyphs, in place of the img tag and the still-elusive SVG. I’m sort of on the fence about this, although I recognize there are definitely some good reasons to do this. Instead of blathering on about theory, let’s go to the chalkboard, shall we?


  1. Less messing with Photoshop and/or sprite sheets
  2. Load images faster
  3. Advantages of infinite scaling
  4. Advantages of CSS (shadows, hover, etc.)


  1. Limited to the glyphs in the font
  2. Limited to font limitations (no color, no texture, etc.)
  3. Bad semantics
  4. Potential for bad 508
  5. Potential for bad SEO
  6. More verbose than img tag
  7. Potential to cause your site to suffer “Wingding Syndrome”
  8. Necessary to load an external font, including hundreds of icons you won’t be using
  9. @font-face, and the baggage that comes with it

Hmm. You know, I was actually meaning for this article to sing the praises of icon fonts, but I’ve suddenly changed my mind. Instead, we’re going to have a fair and balanced look at the above. So without further ado, let’s pit the two technologies against each other…

The less dealing with Photoshop for icons, the better, right? Well don’t forget that you’ll also have to deal with font creation software instead (gross) unless you want to use stock images for your icons. That’s fine, except we went down this route in the ’90s with Wingdings 1-3. I still have nightmares to this day.
Also, don’t forget you will need to store and serve several copies of the font. The IE version, FF version, Chrome version, mobile version etc.
Winner: images

Browser and Loading Time
In theory, vectors will load faster than a sprite sheet, right? Here’s the thing. A font is a giant sprite sheet already… well, a vector sheet, but a sheet nonetheless. You might have a 20k PNG representing your icons, but you might have a 60k font representing tons of glyphs, 90% of which you will never use. But let’s say the font is smaller. So it’ll load faster, right? No. Custom fonts can take a few seconds to install, etc. before being applied to the website. In the meantime, you’ll have random letters sitting around you page while it waits for the browser to do its thing. Is it worth it?
Winner: images

FX Advantages
What has always sucked about CSS is the lack of support for image effects. You cannot add drop shadows and change colors (at least, not in the way you’d expect). With glyph fonts, now you can. So I’ll concede to fonts for this, but the question I want to leave you all with is… why do you need to be able to have hover effects and shadows on your glyphs?
Winner: fonts

This is another brilliant argument for font glyphs. Img tags are bitmap only at this point, and adding retina resolution is a huge pain and there is no best way to do it.
Winner: fonts

You need to add an icon to your page, which is more semantic: <img src=”email.png” alt=”Email:”> or <span aria-hidden=”true”>&#x25a8;</span> ? Yeah. And what do you do about those with visual impairment?
Winner: images

How do you think Google feels when it has trouble reading your website? You know that friend of yours that uses Outlook and the smiley faces turn into letters in your email client? J
I know you can use “content:” in CSS, but that’s not going to save you from Google, and “content:” is something you should always strive to avoid using. And it may not be happening now, but eventually black-hat SEO companies could start using ROT-13 rotated fonts to hide stuff they don’t want Google to necessarily see. I don’t think they’re doing it now, but there’s that possibility they’ll spoil the fun.
Winner: images

This reminds me of when we were using Flash and Javascript to render custom fonts 6 years ago. It’s overkill. Wait for SVG, and in the meantime, just deal with bitmaps unless you have really good reason to use this method.

In closing…
Don’t. Just don’t. Unless you plan to build an obnoxious website with tons of glyphs all over it.
Which you shouldn’t.

Behold, and Impart My Learned Wisdom Unto Others

Bartek’s Law of Coworking
Nothing says the digital era like piling people into a downtown office building with tons of talent and zero ideas.

Bartek’s Law of Private Sector Employment
Make the boss love you. Make management respect you. Make HR fear you.

Bartek’s Law of Project Management
“Man, it’s really hard to find developers. Let’s add more esoteric technologies to the stack and hopefully that’ll make hiring easier.”

Bartek’s Law of User Experience
“The client called. They’re worried that by simplifying the design, you’re confusing the user.”

Bartek’s Law of Software Engineering
The only career path where more money gets you fewer of the opposite sex.

Bartek’s Law of Google Image Search
No matter what the search term, you will always end up with furries in the results. Once you see the first one, you’ve reached the end of relevance.

Bartek’s Law of Design
Apple sets all trends, because that’s what your boss and clients want. If that means ushering in the return of early ’90s hypercolor, then so be it.

Bartek’s Law of Web Design
Take any random picture, blow it up and add 1000% gaussian blur. Add some aquamarine and coral buttons. Congratulations, you made a website.

Bartek’s Law of IT Jobs
Everbank has had those jobs posted for 4 years now. Ignore those, they have no clue who they want to hire.

Bartek’s Law of Front End Job Hunting
The search term you’re looking for is not “frontend”; it’s not “front-end” either. The standard search term is “ninja“.

Bartek’s Law of Modern Web Development
Yo dawg, I heard you like having to learn 5 languages. So we put languages on top of those languages.

Bartek’s Law of IT Careers
You can live where there are awesome jobs. You can live where life is relaxed and easy. But you can’t live in both at the same time.

Bartek’s Law of Search
If you’re searching the web and can’t figure out why Google is giving you unusually awful results… you’re accidentally using Bing again.

Bartek’s Law of Photoshop
“Client: My 11 year-old nephew knows Photoshop. I’ll have him design the website to save money.”

Bartek’s Law of Art School
Congratulations, you graduated. Hang that piece of paper on the wall and commence to starving.

Every year, it goes something like this…

CEO: I just read in Forbes that…

2013: …all websites should be written in Scala. Let’s rewrite our Java to Scala, by next week.
2012: …relational databases are dead. Let’s migrate 30 years of data to MongoDB, they’ll be around forever.
2011: …all websites should use responsive design. Make it pop.
2010: …all websites use Ruby now. Let’s hire Rails experts; there should be tons of them, and willing to work cheap.
2009: …millennials only buy through social media. Let’s make a Tweeter, whatever that is.
2008: …SEO is the future. Let’s buy tons of backlinks, spam up blogs, and set up microsites. No way this plan will fail.
2007: …all websites should be web 2.0. Let’s market ours as web 3.0!!
2006: …all websites should use Flex. Let’s rewrite our entire website in Flex, but don’t use any Flash.
2005: …all websites should have a blog. What, you mean we have to pay someone to write articles for it?
2004: …all websites need an RSS feed. Content? What’s that?
2003: …IE won the browser wars, and no other browser will ever compete. Let’s only write for IE now.
2002: …ASP.NET is going to revolutionize the industry. This is how all web applications should be developed.
2001: …we need a Flash landing page to sell customers on our branding. Make it so.
2000: …e-commerce is the future. Let’s sell pet food online and advertise at the Super Bowl, this is going to be HUGE.