Portugal Travel Log: Part 1, Lisbon and Coimbra

Generally I travel on short notice and with little planning. For me, aimlessly wandering secreted urban streets and directionless forest paths is the true appeal of travel. Metered hours in an unknown landscape leaves little time for the majesty of the unexpected. It was in this spirit that I set out for Portugal, with dreams of old-world charms ripe for exploration. Visiting the hub of new world discovery as one of my first European forays added to the appeal.

Elegant residences line the streets around the Baixa Pombalina (or Pombaline Lower Town), rebuilt following the devastating 1755 earthquakeElegant residences line the streets around the Baixa Pombalina (or Pombaline Lower Town), rebuilt following the devastating 1755 earthquake

My itinerary was, perhaps, rather ambitious: three cities, one of them the metropolis of Lisbon, in a scant five days. Alas, the timing was beyond my control, so smooth traveling was subject to capricious winds of fate. Fortunately, Portugal boasts something all too lacking from my past travels: a first-world transportation system. While not France’s TGV or Japan’s Shinkansen lines, Portugal’s aptly named Comboios de Portugal (Portuguese Trains) is an easy, if leisurely, way to traverse the country without risking life and limb on the nation’s precarious roadways.

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CSS drop-down menus: how to keep the top level selected when hovering over a sub-menu

Pure CSS-based drop-down menus are a great thing, if for no other reason than their sheer simplicity and flexibility. However, they have two main drawbacks.

  1. They don’t work in Internet Explorer 6 due to the browser’s poor support for the :hover pseudo-class.
  2. When the mouse cursor is over a drop-down, the top level navigation item does not stay highlighted under most conditions.

Fortunately, both problems can be solved with some simple JavaScript. The first problem is easily corrected with the excellent Son of SuckerFish drop-down code. The second problem can be solved using the equally small amount of code described below.

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Five Lessons from the Success of the Nintendo Wii

Humanizing Gaming - The Nintendo WiiAlthough I have never been a big fan of console gaming, it has nonetheless been interesting to watch the latest crop of consoles come to market. What really struck me is, even though I don’t intend to buy any of these consoles, I found myself hoping the Nintendo’s Wii would be the big winner. It is certainly not the most powerful, I’ve heard griping about the graphics and the better reviewed games are generally not in genres that interest me. Yet, despite this, I wanted the plucky little upstart to be win the day over the leviathan Sony and Microsoft’s entrants.

Why? Probably because it seems the most “human” of the three. I could easily imagine Nintendo developers actually having fun designing and testing the system. At Sony and Microsoft I could imagine, at best, nameless engineers spending long hours wringing one more frame per second out of the hardware – heat/power-consumption/cost/gameplay be damned.

For this reason, it was fascinating to read an extensive set of interviews with the system’s designers and developers, all on the Wii’s home page. It is an absorbing look into the creative process at one of the most clever companies out there.

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Add icons to PDF, XLS, DOC file links, links to new windows and more…

Whenever linking on the web, it is important to let the user know exactly where the link leads, especially if opening a new window or the linked item requires a plug-in or external software. For example, if linking to a PDF a small icon can provide a good hint of where the link leads. Unfortunately, manually adding icons to every link through a site can be quite laborious. This is where JavaScript comes in. With few lines of simple code we can automatically add icons to every link on a page.

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