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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Simply incredible

I bought the DVD for The Incredibles last week on impulse when I was getting something else. It's cool, especially since I haven't even watched the movie yet, and I've just been having fun watching one or two of the special features on the bonus disc every few days.

But today I came across this little gem, which will leave Ynnej slathering on once again about how she neeeeeds to work at Pixar -- a tour of the Pixar offices, complete with plenty of pictures.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

It's like spelling it Lead Zeppelin

One of the most common and completely, flabbergastingly annoying mistakes I see on at least a weekly basis is for people to use the incorrect spelling of "led" when they write something like "John Doe lead the team down the slope to certain death."

To all those people: "lead" is a noun, and it's a hunk of heavy metal.

The past-tense verb-form you are attempting to use (but actually just abusing) is spelled without an "a", you dolts.

This is why the world needs copy editors. Or just a decent education.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005 redesign progress report

The redesign of is going very well. Last week I presented several design directions for the Front Door (our internal jargon for the homepage) to the managers, and while they like all the designs and there didn't seem to be a single preference, everyone leaned in one direction, so I'm going with that one. It happens to be the one that I prefer as well, both from an aesthetic standpoint and a functional user-centered design standpoint.

My progress over the past six weeks has been exhibited on the wall outside the boss's office (pictured below, new designs above boring old site), so everyone's been invited to see what I've been up to. Apparently the big CNET boss Shelby was down here for a meeting with Scott, the head of Download, last week and they spent 15 minutes looking at the wall. I haven't asked Scott yet to see what Shelby thought, but I'm curious. Several of the directions we went in would emphasize a somewhat more separate brand for than the other CNET umbrella sites (,,, CNET Reviews), which would be a departure. And I'm not sure it would be a welcome one. But we'll see.

Since my direct boss is out of town for two weeks, I'll be spending most of my time redoing all the other major page types (Category Doors, Product Page, Most Popular Page, etc.) in the new design, after which we'll have a more holistic idea of how this new design will work. It'll be interesting to see them all on the wall and to see what people think.

This project has been particularly fun, since site redesign, user interface design, and content design are all strengths of mine and things I enjoy doing immensely. But the day-to-day design requests are not necessarily all that glamorous. For example, whenever there's a holiday coming up we do a themed mini-feature. Since that holiday known for the appearance of a little hopping furball is coming up (don't even let me get started about wtf do rabbits and eggs have to with the supposed resurrection of some guy who got nailed to a big wooden X), I was asked Monday to whip up header graphics for the holiday downloads page.

These are pretty cheesy, but they're quick turnaround projects and come up fairly often. I do a few of these sorts of things, another one being the Power Downloader guy, a superhero mascot who suggests specialized software downloads to readers each week. Since the theme changes weekly, I need to come up with a new little illustration of PD cracking a safe, ripping CDs, or whatever, each week.

Just so you know, these two examples are decidedly not indicative of the direction we're going in for the redesign of the site.

And then, of course, there were the more interesting and fun designs of these three features: The Net Phones / VoIP feature, the iTunes Advanced feature (which I haven't posted since it actually went live), and the 2004 Staff Picks feature. I prefer doing these, for reasons which should be obvious, than stuff like this.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Squee, definition of

Friday, March 18, 2005

You Say You Want a Resolution

I may have already mentioned this really good article about Julia Butterfly Hill, I can't remember. But it covers a lot of interesting stuff she's been up to in the past couple years that even I didn't know about, and I keep pretty good tabs on her work.

You Say You Want a Resolution
� Read it at East Bay Express...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005 scheduled downtime

I am in the midst of transferring my host and changing a lot of things, so if any or all of is down in the next few days or weeks (not sure how long this is all going to take), you'll know why. If you're a geek, you may be interested to read on...

What's going on?
For a year or more I've been weighing the possibility of moving my entire site to a blog format, but using a much more robust system for the backend and thereby giving the front end -- the face the user sees -- a more pleasant and interesting experience.

Part of this comes from my desire to continue web publishing, but to enable me to do it more effectively and more easily. Years ago, going from straight BBEdit coding to Claris HomePage increased my productivity tenfold. Then, when Dreamweaver was finally improved enough in v.3x that it was worth swithing to, that once again increased my productivity by leaps and bounds. When I decided to make use of Blogger's ability to work on my domain, this enabled me to publish information, opinions, photos, and yes, just plain ol' rants, at another level of increased proficiency and speed.

By moving my entire site and all its content areas (from my blog to my links pages to photo galleries to my portfolio) to a single content management system (CMS), I expect to once again greatly improve my ability to publish updates with ease and speed. I intend to add lots more content, and more importantly, categories, a feature sorely lacking in Blogger's otherwise fairly great CMS.

What I'm doing and how I'm doing it
I've signed up with a new web host (interestingly, this'll be the first time will be moved since its inception in 1994), one which offers a number of features that are quite hard to find at most ISPs. Among those important to me are:

1. Movable Type comes pre-installed (although as an add-on feature for a small extra fee).

2. I can have, on my current plan, 5 alternate domains and 100 subdomains. Which means I can host a bunch of sites on my site, and they can all have their own unique domains, without need for masking or forwarding. So, for example, you'll see and and pop up eventually on their own domains, without the need to forward them to (example:) as I do now. I can also choose to implement these sites as if I want (this is called a subdomain). This is a particularly important feature to me, since it's hard to find at other hosts (except as a costly add-on) and I have lots of domains registered to me that I'd like to manage all in one place.

3. An excellent front-end control panel for managing the files, databases, email accounts, access and passwords, certificates, add-ons, features, and everything else. You'd be surprised how many ISPs either lack this funtionality entirely or have very poor implementations. In my experience, about 99% of them have sucky ones.

There are a few other features I like, which are mostly competetive with higher-end hosts who are keeping with or ahead of the curve in offering new features to customers (thereby making them standard features for the industry). These include:

1. More storage and bandwidth.

2. Many more email accounts than 1 or 5 or 10 or whatever pathetic number is offered by most ISPs (they tend to make money as people discover they need more email addresses and then have to add them for a fee). With my new plan, I have 100 accounts and 1,000 addresses.

3. Static IP address.

4. Webmail and spam filters.

5. PHP, plus Perl of course, and capability for server side includes.

There are a few other features that are cool, but I'm not sure if I'll be using them anytime soon:

1. Shared SSL certificate (so I could host https:// secure pages without the need to purchase a costly certificate of my own).

2. Shopping cart.

3. QuickTime streaming server.

Treacherous lands ahead
There are numerous problems involved in switching hosts, especially when all your email runs off the domain in question, not to mention your blog, your portfolio, the websites of several of your friends, and your girlfriend's blog.

I have to make sure I don't screw up everything while taking down the site on one web host's server, and then putting it back up elsewhere. I have to do this for all the sub-sites I'm hosting for other people. I have to change the DNS registry worldwide to make sure everybody in the world is going to the new server instead of the old one. And I have to cross my fingers and hope that no email gets lost in the interim.

To make matters more difficult, I have to quickly figure out how to reformat and reorganize everything on my old site into a different hierarchy and navigation scheme, since I'll be integrating several disparate content areas on the old host under the umbrella of one CMS on the new host.

For example, for the past two years my blog has been using a standard Blogger template that I tweaked a little but never enough to integrate it into the site, or even to add navigation back and forth. So, if you're on the blog, there's no easy way to get to my design porfolio or to my photo galleries. Conversely, there's no way to get to my blog from my porfolio or photo galleries or wherever. Also, the Blogger template's nice, but it's not really indicative of the rest of my site's look and feel.

So, a few months ago I started redesigning for how it would look when I eventually could integrate all the areas and make it all one blog with numerous categories (you'll see them listed on the left in the screenshot on this page).


Well, I'm going to have to complete this entry later. I've been tryint to post this entry for two days, and Blogger is having a ton of trouble with their servers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Interesting article on the creator of BitTorrent

"...For Cohen, it's all a little surreal. He gets up in the morning, helps his wife feed their children, and then sits down at his cord-and-computer-choked desk to watch his PayPal account fill up with donations from grateful BitTorrent users - enough to support his family. Then he goes online to see how many more people have downloaded the program: At this rate, it'll be 40 million by 2006..."
� Read the rest in Wired...

Monday, March 14, 2005


Velms and I went to the snow for the first time in two years (well, my first time in two years, anyway), and I punnished my muscles all day Saturday shredding Sugar Bowl.

A great time was had by all. We stayed in the legendary Dartmouth Cabin, which Alex and Denice have been telling us about for over two years. It's a rustic but excellent cabin a hop, skip, and a jump from Sugar Bowl (you can cross-country to the lodge, or drive about 5 minutes to it) and it only takes about 3 hours to get there unless you hit traffic, which Velms and I avoided by waking up at 5:20 a.m. Saturday to head out before anyone else was awake.

It was beautiful weather up there; some people were wearing T-shirts skiing. It was warm and balmy and the snow conditions were great once the sun heated the slopes up a little and melted the ice off the top.

I'd never been to Sugar Bowl before, with the exception of having dropped in to look two years ago during a storm, but we weren't intending to ski.

Of course, I was 'boarding, not skiing. I thought I might have to relearn things since it'd been over 2 years since I've been on a snowboard, but I hit the bunny slope to see if I remembered what to do, and it was so lame and easy I headed straight for the double-black diamonds. And even those aren't that difficult at Sugar Bowl. Pretty easy, in my opinion. A few of the double-blacks at North Star are more interested and harder, although I spent a fair amount of tim on Saturday trying to negotiate moguls, which I suck at, on a snowboard. But I wanted something a little more challenging, so I kept at it.

Anyway, the cabin was great (you have to snow-shoe in, you can't drive to it), the people were cool, the food was awesome, and the weather was fantastic. I was, however, so tired by the end of Saturday and so sore the next day that it was fruitless to go again, and I kind of wanted to relax a little anyway, so Velms and I snow-shoed a while and made spirals in the snow, and then headed home.

And to Ynnej, to whom I acknowledge that I still owe a promised snowboarding weekend to for Jenny Day, I can only say that you would have enjoyed some of it, but absolutely none of the music that was played at the cabin or in the car on the way up and back (including old Beatles and Ani), and you would have felt constantly intimidated by being the youngest person in the room.

BTW, did I mention that I have a blister, a sore beat-up shin, and muscles that feel like they've been put through a meat grinder?

When it's raining hard, I take BART

Photo of the Day | Powell Street BART | March 2, 2005

Icons rule, ok?

Methinks Jason a.k.a. Mr. Attitude is in the midst of redoing his site, since he's been talking about it lately, and he changed hosts a week or so ago. And 'lo, he's redone the front page with nothing but icons! Whee!

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Kristie and Rick Knoll were early pioneers of organic farming. So why are they now rebelling against organic?

(I thought Velma Jean might be interested in this article, in case she ever wants to start that farm whe was telling me about over the weekend.)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Nick is not a dick

I work with this big guy with awesome hair who looks like he should be front row at a Social Distortion gig. Or maybe in the band that opens the Social D gig.

His name's Nick. SF Weekly says he's not a dick.

Sneak peek

I've been working on a website for Velma's dad's home made yarn business. Here's a sneak peak of the logo. More to come next week.

Maybe I'll just turn this into a photoblog

Probably not, though.

Because I have lots to say but I'm too tired to say any of it

Photo of the Day | Velma, window | Menlo Park, CA | January 8, 2005

Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion

This is a great book. Expensive, yes, but big and beautiful and full of thousands of cool posters, and I'd been coveting it for over two months. Finally I got it on sale.

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Friday, March 04, 2005

Super-duper exclusive Hitchhiker's Guide movie dirt: Filmmakers run out of money, ditch special effects

You read it here first! \\ Reposts must attribute! //

Here it is fans, photographic evidence that Hammer and Tongs, filmmakers responsible for bringing to life the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, have blown their entire budget on cheap hookers, expensive booze, and no tea.

In an effort to deliver the movie on time (i.e. far enough in advance of Revenge of the Ranch that it'll have enough time to make some dough) the filmmakers have had to ditch the last few scenes and have instead opted to use sock puppets.

Above: Exclusive evidence extracted from the official trailer, seen here.

A Hammer and Tongs representative refused to comment beyond this brief statement: "They were not cheap hookers."

LOTR in l33tspeak

An excerpt...

[At Isengard, Grima and Saruman are discussing the attack on Helm's Deep]
Saruman: "U can get hax for anything!"
Grima: "Wtf?"
Saruman: "I R leet. I've got teh wallhax for Helm's Deep!"
Grima: "Cool1"
**The armies of Uruk-Hai are arrayed out before Isendgard.
Saruman: "Leet hax0rs, go and pwn!"
Uruk-hai: "WOOT!"

� The rest...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Note the awesome topless babe drinking glass

Photo of the Day | Drunk Ynnej, post-Wondercon | February 19, 2005

Sadly, the awesome '70s topless-chick glass died a week later, upon impact with a cabinet door. The sister in the set (a brunette with outrageous tatas) gave up the ghost a month earlier, in an unfortunate incident with a dishwasher : (

Band names and T-shirt slogans

One in an ongoing series designed to piss off Ynnej.

Good T-shirts:

"I time travel in my sex dreams"
"Wikipedia Bitch"

Good band names:

I wonder if they have foley artists for porn

Don't ask.

Update: Jenny asked. Jenny found.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Sony strong-arms Beatallica

Last week I was downloading a bunch of MP3s off a little place called Usenet and one of the things I saw was something called Beatallica. I had no idea what it was, but I added it to my queue and went back to watching the cast commentary on the extended cut of the Return of the King. (Yes, I stipulate the dorkiness of my life.)

A week or so later I went back to the downloads folder and added all the files to my iTunes (total count: 11,273 as of last night), and I had to listen to a few of them, natch. I gave Beatallica a whirl (virtual whirl?) and it turned out to be Beatles and Metallica mash-ups. But performed with real instruments, not mixed like mash-ups usually are. It's like Metallica covering Beatles songs, but sort of melding together the lyrics. Or a Beatles cover band playing in the style of Metallica. In fact, upon first listen, I wondered if I'd stumbled upon some rare Metallica recordings, the singer sounds that much like James Hetfield, and the renditions are that Metallica-like. It's really quite astonishing.

Doing a little research, I discovered that Beatallica is a real band, they've been described as something of an Internet sensation, and that their popular website has just been shut down by Sony's heavy-handed lawyers, who approached Beatallica's ISP and webmaster with a fistful of cease-and-desists.

As if the music community or the fans needed another reason to hate the music industry, the overzealous stiff collars at Sony, which owns the rights to a lot of the Beatles catalog, are either to stupid or greedy (or both) to comprehend that parody and satire, not to mention cover versions of songs, are protected under the U.S. Constitution. This has been tested many times in the past by lawyers, and the Supreme Court has always upheld the right of one band to cover another band's material, not to mention the right for artists to skewer other artists with parody.

Anyway, the music's actually exceptionally good, the lyrics are smart and funny, and the latest buzz is that Lars Ulrich contacted Beatallica to say he supports them and would talk to Sony about the whole uproar. Learn more about the Beatallica in these interviews, here and here.

Meantime, if you're a fan of artists' rights and that Constitution thing, please use the online petition to tell Sony to drop dead.