Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Google Human in beta

On the heels of Google's announcement that it'll build a new complex at Moffett Field and team with NASA Ames Research Center to advance the space program, comes the announcement of Google Human.

Filed in: tech, humor

Thursday, September 29, 2005

How wide should a column be?

Many studies have been performed over the decades that show that it's easier to read a narrow column of text than it is to read a wide column. The reasons are many, but the primary one is that, by the time you reach the end of a wide line of type, way over there on the right side of a page or screen, it's hard to quickly snap your eye back to the left and pick up at the next line. If the column is narrow and your vision has only tracked an inch or two or three to the right, it's very easier to snap back to left without losing your place.

This is why newspapers and magazines are all printed in columns. It's also why novels have wide margins and narrow pages.

That's why I noted with some amusement an irony in this Usability News article, titled "The Effects of Line Length on Children and Adults? Online Reading Performance," which posits that " has been recommended by researchers that shorter line lengths (about 60 CPL [characters per line]) should be used in place of longer, full-screen lengths..."

What's so ironic? Count the article's characters per line.

Filed in: design, typography, usability, web dev

This guy is even more anal about pixels than me

Jonathan Rentzsch describes "three cosmetic flaws [in OS X] that, more than anything, disclose the author's continued descent towards the final ('Siracusa') level of interface design neurosis/obsession."

Filed in: Apple, design, tech, UI

Is Beck a Sc**ntologist?

"...Beck has been reported in various places, by a number of people, to have attended the Apple School of Los Feliz, which was run by Scientologists. Beck's elementary class portrait as 'Bek Campbell' appears in an Apple School yearbook... Beck dropped out of school in the ninth grade, after a short time in public school. Many children raised in Scientology, like Juliette Lewis, Leah Remini, and Lisa Marie Presley, drop out of school early. Cult-educated children who are later enrolled in accredited schools often find themselves hopelessly behind their conventionally educated classmates, so dropping out of school is an easy choice..."

Filed in: music, society, religion

What's all this "Filed in" crap?

In preparation for the time when I will transition from Blogger to Movable Type and finally be able use categories, I'm beginning to add them to new posts in hope that it'll ease the process of porting from one system to the other.

Filed in: about, blog tools

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

5 distractions

Because you have too much time on your hands.

PhotoMann's Vending Machines of Japan
Apparently in Japan anything and everything can be found in vending machines. You know, just in case you need some beer, porn, Coca Cola Light (?), toilet paper, fried foods, Hello Kitty popcorn, rhinoceros beetles, or, um... used schoolgirl panties.

What if The Shining was a feel-good family comedy? (Quicktime)
This was passed on to to me today as: "...A contest to re-cut a trailer from a movie, only in doing so, change the genre of the film. Titanic to horror movie, documentary to drama, and so on. This year the winner turns The Shining into a feel-good family comedy." I just wish I had a link to the contest itself!

Scary ginormous squirrels

Weird Product Dept.
Turn your profile into a table leg (or something?)

Geek alert!
Web-based fridge poetry using AJAX = cool.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The iTunes 5 Announcement From the Perspective of an Anthropomorphized Brushed Metal User Interface Theme

John Gruber is farging hilarious.

Too much too fast for Apple?

Fast on the tail of warnings last week about upgrading to iTunes 5.0, it looks like some iPod Nano users are experiencing severely scratched screens. If the reports at are true, it seems that scratching can occur even when cleaning the Nano with a microfiber cleaning cloth, or carrying it in a shirt pocket (with nothing else in the pocket). However, many Nano owners report they have had no problems, according to this article.

Perhaps more importantly, Apple announced ten security fixes to address Mac OS X flaws that security experts described as "critical." You know what that means... Quit everything, fire up Software Update, and expect to get nothing else done for the next hour while it all downloads and then asks you to restart your machine.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Tech notes has announced a critical update to Firefox to fix some security issues. If you're really adventurous, there's also a beta of Firefox 1.5 available.'s redesign is in beta.

.Mac gets an upgrade and a much-needed makeover on the website, which is great for those (like me) who are still weighing whether the pricetag is worth it. The site now has short QuickTime movies showing how each feature works.

The bloggers have been all abuzz over new webstats package Mint.

And I fixed the Browse function on my photoblog, which was busted for a few days.

Jed's Other Poem

Stew made this cool music video for Grandaddy's song "Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)" on a circa-1979 Apple II+ with 48k of RAM.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Need a Gmail account?

New Gmail accounts are closed, but you can still invite yourself via SMS.

Where are they now?

Among the landslide of obscure musicians' names mentioned in this long but interesting forum post titled "rock stars who went back to work," I learned that:

  • Justine Frischmann of Elastica has been a teacher.
  • The bassist for Jesus Jones was a bartender in Chicago.
  • Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple, etc.) worked as an airline pilot for a while, before joining Kansas.
  • Topper Headon (The Clash) has been a taxi driver (and possibly a herion addict).
  • Rick Buckler (The Jam) now makes a living restoring and selling old furniture.
  • The B52's Kate Pearson has a motel.
  • Moe Berg (anyone other than me remember The Pursuit of Happiness?) has a regular DJ gig at a small pub called The Tap.
  • Greg Norton from Husker Du runs a restaurant outside of Minneapolis.
  • David Lee Roth now works as an emergency medical technician in New York.
  • Philip Kramer of Iron Butterfly went on to become a rocket scientist before he disappeared (apparently killed in an auto accident).

And last but not least:
  • "the drummer from metal church works at the ace hardware store in olympia, washington (i know this because i worked there too, and on his application, he wrote under previous job 'drummer for metal church')."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Color scheme "Bult"

The Return of Design is an excellent site that I've gone to a few times for color schemes, so imagine my surprise when I saw one named after me.

Color scheme "Bult" was inspired by my current (and soon to be replaced) homepage.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ouch, that pinched

I gave blood again today, and had a slightly less enjoyable experience this time, if only because the needle really pinched this time and hurt a little when I squeezed the ball. And Verna, or whatever her name was, who did my pre-donation interview, was as slow as molasses and somewhat, er, English-challenged. Which was amusing, but not exactly confidence-boosting coming from someone who's going to take blood out of your body.

But whatever. Won't prevent me from going again next time.

Anyway, donate blood [1] [2] if you can. It might save somebody's life.

Reconsider your iTunes upgrade?

Apple has acknowledged that some users have experienced problems upgrading to iTunes 5.0. I had no trouble when I upgraded iTunes on two of my three computers. But Yuliya experienced a difficulty that wiped all her ratings. That sucks.

So, before I upgrade iTunes on my main music computer at home (the one with the majority of my 15,000+ songs and ratings on it) I will do what I didn't bother to do on my laptop and my work computer. I'll make a back up of my iTunes database files.

Perhaps former Apple Genius Justin can give us some more advice?

Edit 1: Still waiting for Justin to get back to me, but I think he may still be in Europe.

Edit 2: More on mysterious iTunes problems in this post on the SeanTech blog.

Anti-porn segment gets it backwards

Edit 2: No you can't...
----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
(reason: 550 5.1.1 ... User unknown)

Edit 1:
You can send comments to the email address listed here.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has decided to postpone a decision on the creation of a long-awaited .xxx generic top level domain (gTLD), reportedly dues to concerns raised by both the Bush administration and the porn industry.

According to a article, a Commerce Department representative said they have "received nearly 6,000 letters and e-mails from individuals expressing concern about the impact of pornography on families and children."

Apparently the brilliant neocons swung into action to ? imagine this ? oppose pornography on the Internet. What a surprise.

So they organized a campaign and got the talk show hosts blithering and got Hank and Phyllis and Jimmy-Bob to fire off letters to the White House saying "We dont like no nekkid peoples on the interweb! Save are chillen from the Evil Satan-Loving Porn Perveyors of California!"

Um, did anyone actually think about the point of having a separate domain for porn?

No, they didn't. Because these people aren't opposed to a new gTLD for porn. They're opposed to porn. Period.

I've supported the idea of a .xxx domain for something like seven years (yes, ICANN can take a loooong time on a lot of these decisions). The whole benefit of a .xxx domain is that you can put all the porn in one place and then it would be very easy for parents to filter the .xxx domain out on their computers.

The problem is, the current proposal for creating .xxx doesn't actually require all the porn sites to switch their sites to .xxx. It's entirely optional. Dumb.

And ICANN apparently doesn't even have a plan that would transition porn sites to .xxx over time. You could make it optional for two years, and required after two, and then it wouldn't be a burden for porn sites to transition (after all, it can be technically done in a couple days; it's more the burden of having to change your site's branding and advertising). After two years, you could levy fines for sites that don't comply, increasing the fine each month for a year, and then shut them down if they don't comply by the time the third year ends.

What needs to happen here is this:

1) ICANN needs to grow some...spine...and stand up to the porn industry. They need to adopt my brilliant plan, which I will gladly let them do at no charge ; )

1a) The lawyers who will come running to sue ICANN for relegating the porn industry to some sort of "ghetto on the Internet" need to drop dead.

2) ICANN then needs to grow some more spine and stand up to the noisy conservatives and politely tell them to shut the fuck up you don't know what you're talking about let us handle it you twits.

2a) The anti-porn conservatives need to get a life and accept that they're never, ever, I repeat, ever, going to get rid of porn.

As an aside, I should note that I'm a member of the ICANN's At-Large Chapter, which ostensibly allows anyone in the world to participate in these sorts of decisions, but in reality has become over the years more of a smokescreen that acts merely to give the impression that individuals who aren't aligned with any powerful special interest group or corporation still have a say in the decisions that affect the namespace. So people like me have to resort to blogging about these issues to hopefully rattle a cage or two, since no one at ALAC takes any notice or even solicits our opinions anymore.

Why is this day different from all others?

"...Before we go any further, there's something we need to be clear about. Pirates were and are bad people. Really reprehensible. Even the most casual exploration of the history of pirates (and believe us, casual is an accurate description of our research) leaves you hip deep in blood and barbarity. We recognize this, all right? We aren't for one minute suggesting that real, honest-to-God pirates were in any way, shape or form worth emulating..."

But, talking like a pirate is fun. It's really that simple.

» Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Um, whoops

I managed to break my photoblog for about a half-hour this afternoon. Hooray for Internet&trade!

Don't panic (locate your towel). Everything's all right now.

Last night I added most of my photos from 2001–2005 to iPhoto and I was astonished to see that I have 10,226 so far! And that's leaving out 95% of the Acterra photos I haven't even added yet.

After I thought about how easy it is to snap lots of digital photos, it didn't surprise me much anymore, but that first realization of how many pictures I've taken was a little shocking. I mean, after all, I only have 15,852 songs in iTunes. At this rate, I'll surpass that in iPhoto in no time.

Edit: Check that, I just took 85 more photos. So now it's 10,311. Bog I love having my camera back!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Spew check

"Three are so marry chances, in the course of our dairy affairs, in witch Eros can inter into our calculators..."

Why we still need human copy editors.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


I spent the last two days at work in two eight-hour trainings about the "Agile" or "Scrum" software development process. My boss put me in this class because I've been made part of a small team that's responsible for significantly increasing user engagement with the site over the next three months.

The team project is a bit daunting (because the target we have to hit is rather a tough one) but not something I'm worried about. And I was honored to have been entrusted with this responsiblity, not to mention glad that they're even including a designer, since the designer's contribution is often more of an afterthought. But Jim has apparently recognized my experience in usability, so adding me to the user engagement team presumably seemed logical.

The training, however, was mostly a waste of time for me. Which I'm loathe to admit to Jim since I'm pretty certain that the seats in this training were hard to come by and the company spent a pretty penny on the training guy. I did learn a few things, and I can apply a couple of things to work I do, and going through the training will help me better understand what all the programmers and project managers I was in there with when we work together. But the process itself has almost no value to my work, and unfortunately it was mostly a big waste of two days for me.

Now I just have to think of a polite way of saying that to the boss tomorrow.

In other news...

I added my photoblog to a couple days ago and have already had something like 25 or 30 visitors from there in a day or two. There's some fantastic work out there, and a lot of great photographers on If you go there and end up making a profile (it's free), you can save your favorite photoblogs in a watchlist. And you can add me ; )

I've been taking photos more often now that my camera has been revived (knock on wood!). I stopped on Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island last night on my way home from the hospital in the East Bay, and took some really cool photos of the Bay Bridge and a panorama of The City that I hope to stitch together this weekend.

When I started the photoblog last month I was initially worried that I'd never be able to keep up the pace of one photo per day. That's 365 photos a year! And they have to be quality ones. Not just crap. But looking through my archive, I realized I have quite a few good pictures in there I can use. I'm hoping I might just be able to keep it up. Especially if it makes me actually get out and take more photos. The Pixelpost software is what makes it possible, really, because actually posting every day is the hard part. But now I can process and upload 10 or 15 photos in a night, and set them to post one-a-day for the next two weeks. As it stands now, I have enough photos already in the database to last through early October.

I've been so beat the last few days I still haven't finished cleaning anything post-desert, including laundry, so I'm kinda running out of clean clothes. I'm also running tragically low on food (tonight's dinner was frozen corn and two cereal bars), but still holding out on going to the grocery store, seeing as I absolutely hate going grocery shopping.

The Dandy Warhols' latest came out on Tuesday and I haven't even finished listening to it yet! Gotta rip it to iTunes tomorrow and listen to it at work.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Quick update

My dad's still in the hospital, although he's been transferred to a place in San Leandro. This is easier for me to get to (about 30-35 minutes unless there's Giants and/or Bay Bridge traffic), but unfortunately harder for any other visitors, like the pastor from my dad's church, his best family friends, or my mom. Yeah, my mom. She's been going to see him every day (about every other day now that he's in San Leandro) since I told her what happened. This was initially just a bit odd, since they've been divorced for over 20 years and almost never talked with one another. But it's actually been very helpful since she could make it to the Los Gatos hospital from San Jose each day a lot easier than I could from San Francisco, and her being there every day provided me with a better idea of how he was progressing from day to day. He's doing a lot better this week in the new hospital, although it's still going to be a very long recovery.

I posted a dozen or so new photos from the desert to the photoblog, so you'll see a new one each day for the next week or so, then there will be relief from the Burning Man photos for awhile. I also jiggered the code that displays the thumbnail on my blog's pages (in the sidebar at right) so it hits the database to show the most recent thumb, instead of just the static thumbnail pic I had up there for the first week.

Willhelm asked for a desktop version of one of the photos, so I posted a larger version.

Been busy at work trying to catch up on stuff. Stellah's been working exclusively on the Music redesign (to bring it in line with my design for the rest of the site) and the CBGB stuff that happened last week, so I've been handling all the other design needs at work. Luckily, we're hiring a part-time contractor this week to do some production work.

Ynnej is moving to Boston in a couple weeks (*sob*). Which hasn't really hit me yet, I think. So we're gonna party tomorrow like there's no...tomorrow. Erm, yeah.

Gonna go visit my dad now and show him some photos from Black Rock City. He gets a little stir-crazy in the hospital, since it's noisy with beeping and humming machines and there's basically nothing to do but lay there or watch TV. So I've been taking my Powerbook to show him various pictures, as a distraction.

Hopefully, if I get back early enough, I'll have time to wash the playa dust off my bike. I was going to go for a bike ride somewhere in the city today to take some photos, but it's probably going to be too late when I get back from the East Bay and get the bike clean enough. I had a call from Tony Alves, who I haven't talked with in a few months, so we were chatting.

I really need to clean this place up. There's camping stuff and dusty clothes everywhere.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back from the desert

Going to post some new photos to the photoblog tonight.