The miscellaneous ramblings and thoughts of Dan G. Switzer, II

Firefox 3.1's TraceMonkey, color me impressed...

I just installed the lastest nightly build of Firefox v3.1a2pre, because I was very curious to see how an application I've been working on (which is very JavaScript intensive) would work with Mozilla's new TraceMonkey (JavaScript JIT) engine.

I'm extremely impressed by the performance of the JIT. The application I'm working has a lot of dependencies on JS behaviors that are initialized on page load. I've spent a lot of time to minimize the the impact of this code on page load, but there can be a good 250-1250ms delay (depending on PC hardware, the configuration of the page, etc.) before every element on the page is completely usable. So while there is a delay, I've designed things so that it should be pretty transparent to the user because they see the page immediately and by the time they'd actually go to do anything on the page, everything should be initialized.

While just testing the page under the latest nightly Firefox 3.1 build, this page is blazingly fast. It's so fast, I generally can't even see the initialization occur. I'm very impressed and I think things will only get better.

The addition of JavaScript JIT compilers is just a natural progression and I think it'll be the way we see all browsers head. The dependence on JavaScript in web design is greater than ever and with good reason—it allows us to build better web-based applications. However, with the greater dependence on the usage of JavaScript, it can be a really battle at times to tweak performance out of an application. It looks like TraceMonkey is making great strides in handling this problem natively in the browser.

I definitely recommend reading John Resig's blog post on TraceMonkey. It contains a lot of technical detail as well as a brief overview on how it all works.

IE7 not firing onmouseover event properly on element with padding

I ran into a really weird bug this morning. I was having an issue with a jQuery plug-in I wrote, where for some reason IE7 was not triggering the onmouseover event properly. After spending a bunch of time trying to track down the problem, I finally realized that it wasn't triggering the event until it got inside the padding of the element—which is the wrong behavior.

I whipped up a quick test case of a <div> with onmouseevent and some padding, but that worked as expected (with the event firing as soon as it reached the padding of the element.) As I started to debug the problem, I added a background color to the root element in order to see if I could tell when the even actually fired. However, as soon as I added the background-color, the event started firing correctly.

I'm not exactly sure what combination of HTML/CSS is causing the problem. I've been trying to to put together a straightforward example that illustrates the problem, but I've yet to be able to recreate without really complex code.

I believe the problem is related to having an absolutely positioned parent element with relatively positioned children and then moving the parent item's position in the DOM. Even stranger was that if I hide the entire content and would re-show it, everything would work properly.

It sounds like it's a pretty obscure buried bug, but if you're ever having problems getting an event to fire properly in IE7, try defining a background-color for the element to see if that fixes the problem.

Review of Extreme's new CD Saudades de Rock

I've been eagerly waiting a new Extreme album since the 1995 release of Waiting for the Punchline. imageWhen Extreme broke up a few years later, I thought I'd never see another Extreme album. On Tuesday, August 12, 2008 that all changed when Extreme released Saudades de Rock.

Before I get into my review, I should give a little background on my music tastes. Some of my earliest memories are of riding in my parent's car listening to the Beatles—so they probably are the single largest influence in my music tastes. There's nothing I like more in my music than a strong melody and vocal harmonies (which explains why I've loved bands such as King's X and Galactic Cowboys—two bands that have always done a great job with vocal harmonies.

For those of you just know Extreme from their few commercial hits, that's not a really great representation of the band. They've always been extremely diverse in their music. Each album they put out from their self-title debut through Waiting for the Punchline should their growth as song writers and musicians.

So after my first listen of the new album, here are my thoughts track-by-track:


Kyle Lograsso a remarkable 5-year old...

If you're a fan of golf or just of heartwarming stories, then this is for you. My mom sent me this story and it is indeed remarkable (and heartwarming.) Kyle began his fascination with golf at age 2, but it wasn't until after developing cancer and losing his left eye did he actually play the sport for the first time.

Kyle Lograsso @ Yahoo! Video

Steelers football starts tonight!

I actually always look forward to preseason football. I mean I'm always worried about the injury bug, but I love seeing all the young rookies trying to make their mark. What diehard football fan can't wait to see their top draft picks in uniform.

Tonight's the first Steelers preseason game, against the Eagles. The game starts at 7:30pm EST. Those not in the Pittsburgh area, but lucky enough to have NFL Network will get to see the game live. Here are some of the guys I'm keeping an eye out for:

  • Rashard Mendenhall, RB - Our #1 draft pick. I'm anxious to see how well he does in short yardage situations—since the Steelers Coaching staff has been really looking for a power inside runner to compliment parker.
  • Gary Russell, RB - Russell is a second year undrafted player. He played his college ball in Minnesota with Lawrence Maroney. I was really impressed with him last year (and in college) and his running style reminds me of Emmit Smith. He tends to always fall forward. Even with Melwede Moore and Rashard Mendenhall on the team, I still won't be surprised if Russell finds his way into the normal rotation.
  • Limas Sweed, WR - Can't wait to see our #2 pick. The Steelers discovered he had an astigmatism a few weeks ago and fitted him with contacts. He claims he's seeing the ball much better now too.
  • Dallas Baker, WR - Baker is another second year player who supposedly had a tremendous spring camp. Baker "The Touchdown Maker" was hidden on the practice squad, but everything I've heard from camp sounds like he'll make the team. If he pans out, the Steelers will have a ridiculously talented WR corp.
  • Kyle Clement, DE - The Steelers need youth and depth on the defensive line. Clement comes from a small school program, but has lots of athleticism. It sounds like he's been spotty in camp, but I'm anxious to see how the guy plays in a real game.
  • Roy Lewis, DB - From everything I've read, this undrafted rookie has really stood out in camp. They have him playing both FS and CB. His coverage skills are supposedly very solid and he can really lay the wood when making a tackle.
  • Dennis Dixon, QB - Can this kid be the future backup QB? He started off pretty poorly in training camp, but it's said he's getting much better every day. The Steelers scouting team hasn't done a very good job evaluating late round QBs lately. There's no doubt Dixon is a heck of an athlete, but will he be able to handle the reigns of QB if he's asked to play. Hopefully I'll get a feel for that tonight.
  • Bruce Davis, OLB - Another rookie, who terrorized opposing QBs the past few years in the PAC-10 as a defensive end. While its said he needs to bulk up a bit (his upper body strength is reported to not be great) he was primarily a speed rusher in College. He put up like 22 1/2 sacks the past two years at UCLA, so I'm hoping we have our future bookend to Lamar Woodley.
  • Lamar Woodley, OLB - Woodley's a second year player, who from all reports, has been the star of camp. Word is he's unblockable and everyone says he reminds them of Shawn Merriman. Kevin Greene, who came in a special advisor to the LB corp, said Woodley might be the best rushing LB to every put on the Black-n-Gold (and that says a ton coming from KG.)
  • Paul Ernster, P - Yeah, I know a punter. Who pays attention to a punter. Well, the Steelers starting Punter (Daniel Sepulveda) was injured on the first few days of camp. Since the Steelers didn't have a second punter, they called this guy up and got him into camp. I saw Ernster punt the couple of games he played in last year and he really stunk. Word from camp is that he shanks a couple, then booms a couple—which is what I remember as well. Consistency and accuracy are two of the key components I look for in a Punter and constantly shanking the ball in practice does not bode well to me.

I'm also going to really be paying special attention to special teams. The Steelers have brought in a number of big name players to try and find a top-notch Punt Returner (Eddie Drummond, Melwede Moore, Jeremy Bloom, etc.) The Steelers Special Teams has been anything but special the past few years, so I'm hoping to see some improvement. Poor special teams cost us a couple of games last year (and almost cost us a couple others.)

So, there's lots to look forward to in a preseason game, but most importantly it means the regular season is getting closer!