Monthly Archives: April 2007

Downside of Meebo

I forget that I have it logged in, and do inconsiderate things like: leave the room to eat supper, fall asleep on my couch, go to an hour and a half exam review, buy 7-up, etc.

Sorry to, well, pretty much all these people: (I didn’t mean to ignore you all)
[Intentionally saved with 10% JPEG compression quality to protect the innocent. Hm. Compression as obfuscation. Interesting concept…. basically I don’t have any image editors with a Blur effect installed on Vista yet.]

Back in Madtown

Well, we made it all the way back in Nate’s brand new car. He’s never owned a car with a manual transmission before, but he’s getting pretty decent. In fact, he drove from his house in GB all the way to within 11 feet of being safely parked at our apartment without snubbing it. That’s all I’m allowed to say.

Nate quote: “Have you ever seen this movie where this guy tells this other guy to tell this chick ‘What’s up?’, and the first guy likes the chick, but the second guy is dating her, and the first guy knows that the second guy is dating her and the second guy knows that the first guy likes her? I’ve got this scene in my head but I can’t put faces to it.”

Me: “…. What?

…And now back to our regulary-scheduled semester. aka, I can be reached at 3605 Engineering Hall, Wendt Library, or the Computer-Aided Engineering building for the duration of the semester.

Adding a Little Insight to LiteBox with SmartBox

One of the cool things about trying new open source software is having the opportunity to tinker with it when things don’t work quite the way you like, or quite the way that you would have done them. This week, I installed a WordPress blog and spent a couple hours playing with various features and community-written plugins. One of my instant favorites is a plugin called LightBox, which displays large versions of your images in a DHTML overlay when a visitor with a compatible browser clicks on a link to an image. You can see it in use in other posts on this page, though I have not had time to update my blog archives for using it just yet.

Colin, I’m already bored! Show me something cool or shut up already!… Ok, fine, go here.

A while after discovering LightBox and getting it installed, I discovered LiteBox, a derivative based on the moo.fx library and prototype.lite. I soon switched over to this, to save on download time.

But then I found a few things to nitpick. For one, if you link to a really big image, say, a 1280×1024 screenshot, the lightbox dutifully expands to 1280×1024 pixels, but this shoves the all-important “Close” button way off the bottom right edge of your screen. Seeing pretty pictures pop up over the blog is cool. Scrolling around looking for the button to get rid of them is not.

Another annoyance for me, was that I post a fair number of pictures from my cameraphone via Flickr’s email 2 blog feature, via Verizon’s PIX messaging to email addresses. This works quite well, but only puts a smallish 240px preview into my blog. I attempted to edit Flickr’s blog layout to access the 500px version that I know exists, but for whatever reasons, this does not work for me. Flickr tops out at providing a 240px thumbnail. Not bad, but I just don’t like having you, my fair reader, leave my site to view a bigger version of the pictures I post (assuming you even do). It feels like a discontinuity.

So a bit last night, and more this afternoon, I sat down and hammered out my own release of the LiteBox plugin. I call it “SmartBox”, and it pretty handily resolves these issues. You can see it in use here on my blog. Try clicking on a picture like one of the fountaincam snapshots, just to see the lightbox effect as originally intended.

Now, take a look at any picture posted from Flickr, such as my Grandma’s Strawberry Jam. If you mouseover the thumbnail, you’ll see the link heading off to flickr-land to view the full size image there. But try clicking on it, and up pops a 500px larger version, instead of directing you to Flickr’s website. Very nice. The link, if you check again, has been dynamically rewritten to point to a bigger copy of the image that Flickr for some reason won’t just post automatically for me.

Finally, take a look at these two examples: If you follow this link: Waterfall near Medford, OR (no lightbox) you’ll see a tall, narrow image that is almost certainly taller than your browser window. With the old LiteBox, that would have popped up full size when clicking on a LiteBox-enabled link. That would be annoying. So would following this link: Crater Lake Edge (no lightbox), a short but very wide image. Note: your browser may resize the image for you: hover your mouse over it and look for a zooming cursor (Firefox) or an “expand” button (IE6) to see that the image is actually pretty large.

Instead, try these new SmartBox-enabled links, which automatically scale the image size to fit:
Waterfall near Medford, OR

Crater Lake
Crater Lake Edge

For extra fun, try resizing your browser window (maximize it, for example), and click those again. Fancy.

Nice, yes?

If you have a WordPress blog and are interested in using this on your own site, you are more than welcome to. I have done my best to package a WordPress plugin. The most I can say at the moment (with zero other testers) is that it works for me, with WordPress 2.1.3. Pay attention to the readme file for installation and set up instructions.

You can obtain the plugin by downloading this ZIP package and extracting it into your WordPress plugins directory:
Or, by checking out the code from subversion:
svn co


It’s hard to believe that it has been well over a year since I started my blog on October 16, 2005. I hit 200 posts on my old Blogger account last night, one of those numbers that makes you step back and say “Woah, how did that build up so fast?” A lot like how I recently snapped IMG_5036.jpg on my digital camera. (Though I admit, I don’t think it started at 0001… The earliest picture I can find is IMG_1971.jpg, which was taken from the airplane on the way to Europe, within 2 weeks of buying my camera. I can remember earlier pictures of home & Lambeau field, but can’t find them at the moment.) Unreal. Anyways.

Over this, my Spring Break, I finally decided it was time to switch my blog over to a new home here, at I considered using FTP publishing on Blogger to keep the same look and feel, but ultimately decided it would be more fun to try a new blogging software package as well. Enter WordPress. I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet, but it’s been a pretty cool process so far, and I’ve felt like I have more low-level control of what’s going on, as well, which is pretty cool from a nerd standpoint 🙂

Whats new?

  • Well, the URL, obviously, which is now:
  • Also the RSS and Atom feed URLs. If you subscribe by either of those, please update your readers.
  • The name: The Spark Between. This actually came verbatim from the same source as my previous blog title <Collaboration Collective>, but has a bit of a different feel and was taken more out of context. I sat and stared at the “Blog Title” field of WordPress’s installation for at least as long as I originally stared at Blogger’s prompt. The only inspiration I had was not to use < and > again, due to screwing up Paul’s (and probably others’) readers in the past. There’s not much for backstory this time… I went back and read the poem where I got my last title from, and these words stuck in my head. I’m not sure that they really have that much for explicit metaphorical meaning or anything: they’re more like the Chili Peppers; you listen to a song with relatively random lyrics but feel like maybe you’ve heard something profound. They also sound somewhat similar to “The Space Between,” a pretty cool song by Dave Matthews, so that’s always good. If I get sick of the name in the near future, it is certainly subject to change.
  • The comment system is slightly different from Blogger’s. Basically, put in your name & email address with your comment. The email address will never be displayed on this webpage, it is only to make sure the comment is not spam. The first time you comment, it won’t show up immediately because I have to approve it first, but after that future comments will appear right away. Note: I’m not sure if this uses cookies or just name & email pairs, so if it becomes a problem, I will figure out how to use something else. Bear with me…
  • I have imported all my archived posts from Blogger, so if you’re looking for anything in the past, you should be able to find it here as well.
  • There’s a plugin called Lightbox that I think is kindof cool. When you click on thumbnails or links to images in my blog now, if your browser supports it, you will see the image pop up over the page instead of navigating away. (Old browsers will still navigate away as before). I’ve hacked this feature a bit to work with posts I make from my phone as well (that’s why the couple posts about Gramma’s house below 🙂 ) Let me know what you think of this… useful? annoying? indifferent? waste of bandwidth? Do tell.
  • I intend to spend some time this weekend going back through my old blog posts and making sure they transitioned alright. At that point I’ll try to also update the Categories (aka tags) I’ve assigned to my posts, since I only bass-ackwardsly used those over on Blogger.

That’s probably about it… Welcome, I hope this new site works out for all involved, and don’t forget to update your links!

Gramma's Strawberry Jam

Gramma’s Strawberry Jam

Gramma makes the best strawberry jam in the world!

And also provides another test of my new blog’s flickr abilities. Specifically a JavaScript hack I just wrote to get the full size URL for the Lightbox effect, instead of using the lame link to Flickr proper all the time. (Don’t worry Flickr, I still kept a link to you guys.)

April ice brings… uh, broken fountain?

Not sure if you can see it, but those are icicles on the vertical caliper:

And that is bad. Fortunately Chris & Justin are in Madison shutting things down as I write this, so that the above-ground pipes don’t freeze and burst tonight and tomorrow in the freak freezing temperatures.