Techno Bubble Explodes

photo: cafe maryland, ave clichy

Quiet days at the Maryland in the Avenue de Clichy.

Ed Says 'Excuse Me!'

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 24. May 1999:- Some mysterious thing went 'pop' in the night, possibly over Saturday-Sunday, and Metropole went off the Internet for the first time I can remember since February 1996.

There have been other incidents when parts of the Internet have broken down and access has been disrupted to or from some parts of the world, but this incident is the first that I can remember that put Metropole into a flat out 'off-the-air' situation.

I almost feel like getting on the phone and calling everybody who tunes in on Mondays, to tell you not to bother. Luckily for all of us, I know very few phone numbers.

What is similar to the other times when there were disruptions, is that it has happened on a long holiday weekend - when it is impossible to get anything fixed. There is just nobody around with a screwdriver.

I received an alert yesterday from Metropole's server-lady, Linda Thalman - and, though it may be bad luck to say so, it has kind of saved my neck.

A couple of weeks ago, I 'changed' the type characters for the magazine's bodytext. Some of you will not have noticed, because you have your browsers set to your own preferences - or the browsers will simply show you what they feel like anyhow.

Other readers did notice the typo changes, and wrote to say so, positively. This encouragement helped me decide to change the fonts for the headlines, to something looking a bit more 'headline-like.'

You all know the old rule, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' When I got the call about Metropole being offline - and the impossibility of puttingphoto: terrace on champs elysees this issue online on time - my 'fixing' was already costing me secundos, minutos, horas, dias, mesas, años - of time, spent fooling with the idiot code that lurks behind all these pages.

The new headline type showed on some pages, but not others. The tiny signature image I did for the Email pages was floating around like a loose balloon - three hours were spent hacking on that alone - just to place an 'image' that took me 90 seconds to write. I arrived at a solution, one I am still unhappy with because it looks like band-aid code.

For the reluctant headlines, the 'fix' was relatively simple. I threw away the code that didn't work, and copied and pasted in seemingly identical code, that did work. Does work.

Back to our techno-bubble burst, explosion, meltdown. When Paris newspapers don't appear because of whatever reason, the next day's edition usually has a little box on the front page saying something like, "Due to an Inkwell-Fillers strike yesterday, certain of our editions did not appear. We are sorry about this because we had some neat news ready for you, and the advertisers are hounding us for their money back."

Metropole was not on strike. It was broken.

Any Hackers Out There?

This reminds me - you may be able to help out here. I am one of the ten-percent minority of lunatic-fringe Macintosh users, and this is what is used for Metropole's production.

The people who make browsers and the people who dreamed up the code for Web pages obviously thought typography was of no importance, because they seem to be unaware that type fonts have names.

If I go to the trouble of selecting the fonts for Metropole - by name - I do it so the pages will load faster and will be easier to read when displayed. As a long-time European resident, I do notphoto: rain on champs care for serif-fonts in small type sizes for reading on-screen. The little 'feet' of these fonts are blurs at best.

If you have your browser set to 'Times Roman' that is your choice and I can't do anything about it anyway. If you have the size set to anything larger or smaller than 'default' - what a choice! - you will definitely not get 'what I see.' If you have a PC, and use Microsoft's browser - somewhat probable - my whole page layout and typography scheme becomes very dubious indeed.

So let's forget minor things like layout and body type. The only thing we may see remotely in common, are the headlines. When I am in the mood I try to make these - er, - I work on these a bit - always dreaming of the chance I missed to work on tabloid headlines, in ten-inch type.

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