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North West Start Up 2.0

There aren't many events like this outside of the south east, so I'm glad to report that Sam Sethi of TechCrunch, Ivan Pope of Snipperoo and Manoj Ranaweera of ebdex have organised an event in Manchester for web entrepreneurs and investors to meet. http://upcoming.org/event/120380/

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Forcing new windows is just plain rude

I've been using googles various tools for sometime now, I was a fairly early adoptor of gmail, spreadsheets and started using writely just after its relaunch. So I was glad to see them start making efforts to integrate these tools, in gmail you now get a little "Services" toolbar on the top left, but when you click anything on it, it forces it open in a new window! This isn't a big problem in firefox since you can middle click and open in a tab. But then in docs and spreadsheets, trying to middle click on "New Document" will result in a page telling you turn on javascript! Please google, give us the choice of how many windows we open, most of us have more than enough already!

"Save To Disc"

This Firefox typo drives me round the bend! This is not British English, in the UK we refer to hard drives as disks. If it annoys you too then just save this file to DISK, in [program files]\Mozilla Firefox\chrome\ and then restart FF.

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Greasemonkey for the masses

I'm always blogging about greasemonkey, you probably all think I'm obsessed with it or something. I promise I've got a few none GM posts on the way. But for now I just want to mention that greasemonkey have released a new version, and I think they've taken an important step in this release. They've prettied up the script installation UI, it doesn't sound like much but hiding the code from the user is sort of a big step forward, it's no longer a tool for js hackers, it's a tool for the masses. It even has the all important security warning. It's about time too, GM can be so useful to so many people, now I can install it on my mums computer and send her links to scripts without worrying about her having some kind of breakdown at the site of some code :) More info here
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Banking Mashups

The key concept that feeds the mashup community is open data, all those nice APIs into flickr, del.icio.us, last.fm etc. They let us do fun things with photos and music listening habits, but the really useful data is always locked away. A good example is the Royal Mail address database, unlike america you need to pay a lot of money to do anything useful with that. But what about the data we own? all our personal data, locked away in systems that we can't do anything with. When I log on to my internet bank they won't even let me right click and view source! They do offer a download of my statement into a few archaic formats, like ofx (along with invalid xml!). I could do so much more with this data if I didn't have to keep manually logging in to and downloading files. I want a live feed of the state of my finances. I'm thinking of starting an open source project to develop a simple yet powerful api to internet banks that parses the data out of the banks own website and gives it back to you in a nice DataSet with all the info you could need. Then possibly this could be extended to allow making transactions between accounts or other things. Of course security would be an issue, the account login details would have to be stored in full on the machine using the API, or passed in from a client. I hope it's just a matter of time before banks catch on to this and start offering interfaces with things like read-only logons. Then again, I won't be holding my breath.

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Lumpy del.icio.us Clouds

This is a simple user script to make your del.icio.us tags scale to reflect the number of items, like they do on flickr and other such things. You'll need Greasemonkey to run it. I was surprised del.icio.us didn't do this already, I thought maybe there was an option somewhere. I'm still worried there might be one and I'll look like a fool for posting this, but here it is anyway. Example Tag Cloud

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Firefox animation redrawing bug + Fix!

I've been using the YUI Animation tools on a couple of projects recently, and I keep coming across problems in Firefox, the performance of the animations is appalling compared to IE and Safari. Now I love Firefox as much as the next geek, but sometimes it really pisses me off. The bug that's really been bothering me for weeks occurs when you animate the position of an element within an overflow:hidden element. Such as sliding something out of view in a little window, which has been a common requirement so far! The blue rectangle shows where the sliding div currently is. It's higher than the containing box because that box animated it's height from where it was to the height of the new content, clipping the original content. The jagged purple line on the bottom left is part of the box border being repeated across the page as it animates. The div is being moved with a negative margin. I've also had this problem when animating the width of a div down to 1 while the opacity goes from 1 to 0, You then see the right border of the div smeared across one side and fading out. As soon you resize the window or scroll the smearing out of view and back again, it's gone! The solution is to set the inner div to overflow:hidden too. Even though you don't set a height on it so you never see the clipping being applied on that div, it stops Firefox sampling and redrawing content that isn't actually part of that div. This seems to have no affect in IE. If you have any other similar problems or alternative solutions, let me know!
Thom Shannon's background in making chips gives him a unique insight into the web development industry. As the Technical Director of Glow New Media he works with clients across the UK to deliver high quality web marketing solutions using the latest techniques, accessibility practices, and web standards in both straight and crinkle cut.

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