Alvar Sirlin | Web Design & Development Web designer and developer Mon, 15 Sep 2014 14:37:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Some fun with CSS3 Fri, 17 Jun 2011 20:37:18 +0000 I made this micro-site for my friend at Most Media’s utility Evernote to Springpad Converter.

Don’t bother looking in IE8, as that doesn’t support any of the fun stuff.

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Booked till November. Mon, 21 Jun 2010 11:33:53 +0000 This summer has been crazy. After freelancing for a bit over a year I’m finding myself in the bittersweet position of turning down work.

What am I up to? I’m continuing to do great work with my partner since I started freelancing, Dawn of Serendipity Creative such as work on the Lighthouse DC website; and have begun some new relationships. I’m working on a large corporate intranet redesign with my friend and neighbor Robert of Most Media, and building Concrete5 powered websites for Vibrant Creative.

These are exciting times. Now I just have to remember to take a day off once in a while :)

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Microsoft at Standards.Next Sun, 22 Nov 2009 17:25:29 +0000 Screen shot 2009-11-22 at 12.18.58 PMLast week I attended Standards.Next, a conference about what’s coming in HTML5 and CSS3 hosted by Opera (yes apparently they are still around!). It was curious to see Pete Le Page from Microsoft IExplorer team there. It was pretty brave, as IE is pretty much the problem with adoption of the advances being discussed. In the introductions part of the seminar, IE was universally bashed as the principle source of pain in the development cycle, one attendee describing how her team has dubbed it ‘Internet Exploder’ :)
During QA after his presentation, one attendee asked, given the very long road for IE to catch up to the competition, why not adopt an open source engine like Webkit or Gecko? Pete (non)answered that IE has exciting new features, etc. Microsoft insists on reinventing the wheel, but square. The real problem is that, through some failure of the market, 90% of internet users will be using that square wheel. So you have to ask, how responsible is Micro$oft acting on insisting on developing a clearly inferior product, when they are servicing the majority of the market? And should pressure be coming from shareholders that M$ stop wasting money on a losing game?

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Evernote Love/Hate Tue, 11 Aug 2009 23:25:53 +0000 Evernote_IconThe review, How I Use Evernote, at Cranking Widgets got me to try out the app about a year ago. The post has a lot of great ideas on how to use this basic but powerful note taking app. Since then I’ve fallen in love with Evernote, migrating fully over from Jott, the minute they suspended their free (and somewhat mediocre) transcription service. It is now among my most used apps, and at free, it’s a pretty awesome deal.

Some of my uses:

  • Code snippets and Keyboard Shortcuts database, organized by app/language
  • Client and Research Notes
  • Account Info repository
  • Visual Memory – anything I need to remember that I can snap a pic of
  • Document Archive
  • Blog post/Email drafting

Cool features:

  • good tags implementation
  • iPhone support for voice and photo memos
  • easy web clipping
  • text recognition on photos (in theory at least – I haven’t seen it work)
  • horizontal rules! something Google can’t seem to get right, nothing like an HR to help organize a page
  • good list support – making multilevel lists is easy (If only you could paste them into other apps)
  • advanced searches on attributes, eg. creation date

The iPhone syncing works like it should, unlike Things for example, which you need to manually sync over a local wifi network. The ability to have the app on multiple computers, combined with the website and iPhone app means you pretty much have access to your data no matter where you are. And with a handy export to HTML, your data is safe and portable (if you remember to make regular exports). And yes, you can export all the notes in one click. Nice. Now that I’ve talked about how great Evernote is, I want to note how infuriatingly bad it is in certain areas. The main problem is the text editing.


  • Use styles sparingly. The moment you set a style, say bold, expect everything in that note to default to bold. Even if you unbold, it often randomly reverts to bold again
  • editing lists = suck. move a list item may change the styles on the whole list
  • No decent tabs or table support
    • you can’t edit a table, so be sure to get the rows and cols count right the first time, or you will have to copy and paste all the values into a new table
    • the other day I was making a table, and a cell popped out into new column, making a discombobulated mess of a table. Nope, no way to fix it, save remaking the table from scratch like above
    • tabs are just a several spaces, so you can’t get things to line up pretty. Also makes it difficult to make a note of code that needs tabs to be readable

Picture-1Here is my wishlist that I think would make this app flawless:

  • fix the text editor
  • make a function to revert a note to plain text, so you can edit on the iPhone (instead of just appending to it)
  • ability to hide notes – Google docs got this right. Notes add up quick.
  • Back button – where was I just before
  • iPhone ability to edit pending notes – after I click save in the subway, if I get another idea I have to start a new note. Bummer. – Fixed!
  • Font zooming – the default font-size is a bit hard on the eyes, and changing the font style, like I mentioned, can be a world of hurt
]]> 0 – A Forum for the East End Thu, 18 Jun 2009 02:40:50 +0000 Montauk Talk – A Forum for Montauk, NY

I’ve always thought it would be cool if there were a place out here where people could talk. So I created this BB Press powered Online Forum. Here’s to hoping that people actually use it!

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Rosalind Wiseman’s new WordPress Site is live. Sun, 10 May 2009 23:38:14 +0000
I helped Serendipity Creative to transform the old into a new WordPress driven CMS website. Serendipity Creative designed the new site. I managed the WordPress coding and contributed to the HTML/CSS markup.

Rosalind Wiseman is an author and expert on teens, parenting and bullying. The new website uses an interesting WordPress feature: it’s the child theme of a Professional Theme called Mimbo Pro. Some other cool features it has are liberal embedding of video, multiple blogs, photo galleries, gCal event listings, and a User Forum.

The project was fun because I learned a lot more about WordPress. I’m really getting into using it as a CMS.

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Recent Personal Music Trends and Observations Tue, 10 Feb 2009 18:48:44 +0000 Two songs in heavy rotation are both Hip Hop with R&B soloists. Grab the mp3‘s below (the addenda are all links to amazon if your interested)!

  • Call the Law, Outkast ft. Janelle Monae, Idlewild, 2006
    I’m hooked from the scatting in the beginning under the romping jazz piano, to the easy, on-story lyrics of Antwone, to the long-form evocative story that Janelle Monae twirls about marital strife.

  • Coffee, Aesop Rock ft. John Darnielle, None Shall Pass, 2007by Aesop Rock Aesop flips easily into a west coast style, rocking sick cadences and metaphors, though still not sure what his lyrics are about. But John evocative Donny Brasco-esque moodiness with his extended vocals. “1967, Colt 45″.

Runner Up: Guitar Albums

  1. Mambo Sinuendo, by Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban,  2003
    Classy, vintage Cuba/surfer vibe done by two guitarist giants in the game. Manuel Galban played on Buena Vista Social Club, which Ry Cooder introduced to the public.
  2. Masada Guitars, by John Zorn, 2003
    Some of the best contemporary guitarists: Bill Frisell, Tim Sparks and Marc Ribot, tear up compositions by John Zorn. I think every track is incredible. The only album that compares to this
  3. The Guitarist, by John Williams, 1998
    Exotic tunes, including Greek compositions and rounding out with some mellow Satie, woven together to make a great album.
  4. Deviations, by Dominic Frasca, 2005
    A true virtuoso playing in the Minimalist genre.

2nd Runner Up Trend: [Brazilian] Girl Bands

  1. Bond do Role
  2. Cansei de Ser Sexy
  3. Nouvelle Vague (they may be French, but they do Bossa Nova-ish covers)
  4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (ok, also not Brazilian, but hott)

3rd Runner Up Trend: Male + Female Vocalists

  1. Blonde Redhead
  2. Pidgeon
  3. Brazilian Girls
  4. Tricky
  5. Pixies
  6. Sonic Youth
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The Data Paradigm Sun, 18 Jan 2009 17:03:56 +0000 Like staring at a painting for too long, I’m not sure where this post is going, so I’ll just throw it out there as an index, and see if it leads to anything.

10 years ago we hailed the arrival of the Information Super Highway. Now, new technologies built on that infrastructure have increased information accessibility by an order of magnitude. The idea that in our lifetimes we had to search out information in physical libraries seems atavistic. Below I highlight some of the major trends in information consumption in the Geekdom.

Blogs > RSS
RSS has allowed push dissemination of content on the web. You can follow as many blogs as you like through a feed reader. I typically have over 1,000 unread posts in my Google Reader, due to the high quantity of blogs I follow.

For those who still are having trouble with the concept I suggest Common Crafts excellent video tutorial, RSS in Plain English.feedscrub1

The state of the art of RSS is advancing with innovations to help you deal with information overload such as Feed Scrub, with which you train your account to filter out posts you don’t want to read. I signed up for the beta, but until they create more advanced import and export options I won’t be trying it out (currently you have to import and export each feed individually).

postrankPost Rank is another potentially interesting service which sieves your feeds for the most popular posts. It achieves this by looking at comment counts, tweets, clicks, bookmarks etc. And AideRSS integrates it effortlessly into online feed readers as a Firefox Extension or a Greasemonkey script. The interface is fugly, so I disabled it. Hopefully they’ll improve UI in future iterations.

Feeds of course, aren’t made by the magic feed fairy, one has to setup an RSS feed on their blog. Some blogs don’t have any feeds, or feed the wrong thing. Recently I’ve been ranting on Twitter about my new pet peeve, photo sites that don’t include the photos in their feeds. Enter Feed43 a web service that can create a feed from a webpage using regular expressions. Although it’s a bit daunting at first, anyone with mild geek-cred can get the hang of it after a couple shots. Check out the feeds I’ve created there.

This is the blogging short form that is hot right now. You are limited to 140 characters per “tweet”, which is what makes this service unique: brevity. A lot of people are supplementing their blog posts with numerous daily tweets. Like RSS, this is a push service, so all the twitterers whom you follow’s tweets show up on your Twitter page.

Twitter is a service that is extending what the language of the internet. Consider the innovations in semantics: @replies and #hashtags are meta-language characters that have grown organically in Twitter to facilitate tweet tracking.

An interesting thing about Twitter is the myriad ways it’s used. Some use it as communication channel to hold conversations with their friends. Others to give status updates (it can update Facebook status). Some to share cool things they’ve found. Others promote their services. Others use it as the ultimate knowledge base, and others as a newswire. Most use it for a bit of all of the above. I grab tons of information from my daily Twitter browsing on a range of topics such as politics, tech, finance and the lives and opinions of people I know and/or admire.

The number of technologies growing up around this platform are too numerous to go into, but a few of the interesting ones I’ve seen are Follow Cost, which allows you to evaluate the posting frequency and @ replies of someone before you follow them; Yammer, which is billed as twitter for project management; and Twinkle for iPhone, which grabs tweets from your current immediate surroundings (useful to have at an event).

A lot of people still don’t get Twitter, despite it’s  popularity. If you want to learn more, again, I suggest again, Common Craft’s video Twitter in Plain English.

Possibly my most used iPhone app, Instapaper let’s you separate the long form articles you want to read later from the constant flow of byte size bits that you may consume fast and loose in your feed reader during breaks. In the past I would just skip things I didn’t have the time to invest in. Now I can just mark them to be downloaded to my iPhone, and read them on my commute.

Safari Web Clips, OSX Dashboard, iPhone apps, etc
And on and on and on… APIs mean you get the data any way someone can think up to serve it. Webclips and Dashboard widgets in OSX bring sites’ onto your mac effortlessly. The iPhone app store is creating a huge new marketplace for content providers. Even just checking your mail puts you in contact with data with (mandatory) RSS snippets at the top of the inbox.

Notorious for its opacity, government is starting to open up it’s doors. With “Open Obama” taking office, his commitment to transparency, apparently, is much more than lip service.


  1. Obama’s (now & Citizens’ Briefing Book with it’s Digg model for voting up & down citizen commentary.
  2. The House, and the Senate on YouTube, where you can see videos by your Representatives, and their debates on the floor.
  3., which allows you to vote up or down the popularity of bills, and features profiles of Representatives.
  4., that has an open API (arguably the true measure of transparency) to let people develop apps that have direct access to the data, as well as tons of downoads.

Also, check out John Edwards on Twitter. Unlike Al and Barack, he updates frequently!

Life Feeds
The paradigm is not only changing on a website level. With the explosion of social media sites like Facebook for friends, LinkedIn for careers, Delicious for bookmarks and Flickr for photos, the Internet is increasingly a place inhabited by people. You can learn frightening amounts of information about a person involved in social media. Indeed, most people are so tickled by the fact that we are writing our autobiographies in the cloud, they are ok with the security risk.

On my FriendFeed page you can see an aggregate of my social media profiles. My About page has more in this vein.

Information accessibility is a good thing no-doubt, but there are a couple of perils involved with this explosion of means. People putting out life feeds are ever more at risk of reputation damage, and even identity theft. You are only as safe as your least secure social media site. The recent twitter hackings during Mac World, where Steve Jobs was pronounced dead (classy), is just one example.

Consuming myriads of info through a single source also means credibility diminishes in importance. It’s tougher to distinguish which is the reputable news source with the branding gone. This contributes to info-tainment. People can’t trust their sources, and they don’t care.I think we’re at a strange point in the internet where it is simultaneously maturing into a platform, while simultaneously deteriorating the credibility/quality of information.


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Testing Feedburner Tue, 13 Jan 2009 17:30:00 +0000 Is this thing on?

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New website, “Just Thinking of You” is up! Sun, 21 Dec 2008 06:26:51 +0000 jtoyThis was originally envisioned as an iPhone app, but it seems that interfacing an app with iCal might be more difficult than I had hoped (at least according to the infamous Marzagao).

The idea is simple: We love our girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses and mistresses, but let’s face it, we don’t show it nearly enough. You can subscribe to an iCal calendar that reminds you every month to do something nice for that special someone at Just Thinking of You (.net). The events have alarms and suggestions. Check the site for some examples.

I’m thinking about changing the design, but I wanted to get something up so I coded my first draft. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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