Cross browser background opacity

If you want to create a semi-transparent background you can either use png image files or use this useful css:

background: rgba(0,0,0,0.6);
filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr=#99000000, endColorstr=#99000000);
-ms-filter: "progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr=#99000000, endColorstr=#99000000)";

Web Fonts Vs Commercial Fonts

This is a great site showing some similar web and commercial fonts

Can you tell the difference?


Google Frontend Coding Standards

These two links are very useful summaries of some of the best practices in frontend coding.

Html & Css:

Dynamically including JavaScript & CSS files

When creating JavaScript applications that run from multiple libraries, themes and files, you will hit a common problem.

- Including all of the files in your html page is a huge waste on download speeds and performance (when only half are actually used)

- Including the files when needed improves the download speeds but the users see a lag as they wait for that feature to show

The simplest solution to get around this is to run your feature/theme detection before the html page has loaded and append the additional resources to the page. This means the browser loads them as soon as possible and still gives you the flexibility of running your own logic.

The Google Analytics embed code is a good example which looks something like this:

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '';
var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);

However This code inserts the new files before the others in the page. With themes in particular you want to include them after the page files so you can overwrite styles. Here is my modified code for css and js:

(function() {
var e = document.createElement('link'); e.href = 'css/theme.css'; e.rel = 'stylesheet';
var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0]; h.appendChild(e);

(function() {
var f = document.createElement('script'); f.src = 'js/theme.js';
var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0]; h.appendChild(f);

And if you want to switch the css and js theme based on a url parameter:

(function() {
var theme = new RegExp('lang=([^&]*)', 'i').exec([1] || 'default-theme';
var e = document.createElement('link'); e.href = 'css/'+theme+'.css'; e.rel = 'stylesheet';
var f = document.createElement('script'); f.src = 'js/'+theme+'.js';
var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0]; h.appendChild(e); h.appendChild(f);

HTML5 video events

When developing an html5 video player you use events to know when the player is ready, and to get the length of the video. You will also need to make them work cross browser and cross device.

This page is really useful for seeing the events fire with their relevant commands:

Here is an example using the three most used events:
(note that iOS devices the video metadata is not available until you've manually triggered play on the video player)

// setup the video player

var view = document.createElement('video');
view.addEventListener('loadedmetadata', onMetaData, false);
view.addEventListener('timeupdate', onTimeUpdate, false);
view.addEventListener('ended', onEnded, false);

// load the video

view.autoplay = true;
view.controls = true;
view.setAttribute('src', 'example.mp4');

function onMetaData(e) {
console.log('onMetaData', view.duration);

function onTimeUpdate(e) {
console.log('onTimeUpdate', view.currentTime);

function onEnded(e) {

Testing touch events using your mouse

If you aren't running xCode then you can test touch events using this bookmarklet

Also Chrome has added some useful touch/device features.
1) Open your developer tools F12
2) Click the bottom right cog to open the settings panel
3) Click 'Emulate touch events' to make Chrome fire Touch Events (note it doesn't emulate page scroll)
4) Click 'Override User Agent' to choose a mobile device and emulate its user agent settings and screen width/height

Ace open source code editor

If you're planning to include a live code editor in one of your projects you may have a hard time working out how to validate code within a text field and replicate formatting.

The hard work has been done for you with Ace code editor. This open source project gives you all the functionality including:

  • Syntax highlighting
  • Automatic indent and outdent
  • An optional command line
  • Handles huge documents (100,000 lines and more are no problem)
  • Fully customizable key bindings including VIM and Emacs modes
  • Themes (TextMate themes can be imported)
  • Search and replace with regular expressions
  • Highlight matching parentheses
  • Toggle between soft tabs and real tabs
  • Displays hidden characters
  • Drag and drop text using the mouse
  • Line wrapping
  • Code folding
  • Multiple selections
  • Live syntax checker (currently JavaScript/CoffeeScript/Css/XQuery)
It's so good it's used by a number of sites including the very interesting cloud coding site Cloud9:

You can view the demo at:

Or grab the source at:

GIT programs and tutorial

If you want to store your code in the cloud, then GIT is one of the best options out there. GITHub is a site that allows you to store your code for free and collaborate with other users which has really been useful to me.

However GIT is not simple to pick-up and use, as most of the features can only be accessed by command line or another program such as GITTower.

If you're wanting to learn the command line approach then this is a really useful interactive tutorial:

Otherwise go for something such as:

or you can go for GITHub's own programs for Windows and Mac at:

Controlling multiple YouTube Players at once

I'm constantly using the YouTube Player API to embed videos on sites with special functionality such as hidden controls, looping or synching to live feeds.

Howver one function always seemed to be elusivein the API. This was the ability to control all of the players on a page, regardless of whether they have been embeded using JavaScript on not.

I made a little helper function which stops all youtube players it can find on the current page:

function players(func, args) {
var iframes = document.getElementsByTagName('iframe');
for (var i=0; i<iframes.length; ++i) {
if (iframes[i]) {
var src = iframes[i].getAttribute('src');
if (src) {
if (src.indexOf('') != -1) {
iframes[i].contentWindow.postMessage(JSON.stringify({'event': 'command','func': func,'args': args || []}), "*");

// example usage
This search for all iframes with youtube embeds. It then posts a message with the value you want:

The Internet Map

Just stumbled across this amazing map of the internet which shows levels of activity and the sites other sites users also visit. It creates an amazing universe world of dots which are all interconnected.

Great fun to explore but probably useful as a research tool too!

Apple did not invent the smartphone

The smartphone is a device that has taken the world by storm. 18% of the world own one and rely on them day-in, day-out. Arguably a more important invention than the television or the phone itself.

The 'Smartphone' term was first coined by Ericsson in 1997 at the launch of their new GS88 phone. Other terms around this time included 'feature phones' or 'PDAs'. Microsoft at this time coined a nice definition for similar devices running their OS as:

"a handheld device that enables users to store and retrieve e-mail, contacts, appointments, tasks, play multimedia files, games, exchange text messages with Windows Live Messenger (formerly known as MSN Messenger), browse the Web, and more"

With such an important device in our lives, surely reputable sources of information online would outline the pioneers, devices, operating systems and their full history?

Lets look at some examples of large sites:
Guardian - Read all about Apple's inventions, I mean the smartphone timeline
ZDnet - Explore 4% of the history of the smartphone
Wikipedia - Windows Pocket Pc gets one paragraph even though it has 400 devices seven years before the emerging iPhone

and some small sites:
BitRebels - a good attempt at covering some of the devices
TimeToToast - a wide range of devices

The main sites have completely ignored the older devices and seem to be writing a new history of the smartphone with Apple as the inventor. This is quite disturbing because Apple should only be credited with bringing the smartphone to the masses and making app downloads easier.

As part of my attempts to correct the obvious bias in the history of smartphone. I have created a graphic showing some of the interesting devices that were launched between 1996-2007. I've decided to focus only  on smartphones with large screens, touch capable, without keyboards, with apps and internet enabled.

This is by no means a full list, but gives you an idea of the developments occurring up to ten years before the iPhone was even conceptualised. Notice the similarities of features and even the name of the iPaq?!

Smartphone timeline between 1996-2007