Understanding Proxy Browsers

A new series of posts by Tim Kadlec on proxy browsers and why some people need them:

I’d venture to say that most developers and designers are not big fans of proxy browsers—assuming they pay attention to them at all. They don’t behave in ways a typical browser does, which leads to frustration as we see our carefully created sites fall apart for seemingly no reason at all. And frankly, most of us don’t really need to use them on a day-to-day basis. Through the lens we view the web, proxy browsers are merely troublesome relics of a time before the idea of a “smartphone” was anything other than a pipe dream.

But our view of the web is not the only view of the web. People all over the world face challenges getting online—everything from the cost of data and poor connectivity to religious and political obstacles. In these environments proxy browsers are far from troublesome; they are essential.

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Understanding Proxy Browsers is a post from CSS-Tricks

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The Tower of Babel – Shop of the Day 156

The Tower of Babel – Shop of the Day 156

Back to where it all started, well the production anyway.  This renowned French patisserie on Greek St is where I had my first meeting with  #1882Ltd – the manufacturers who have made the Fine Bone China Shops. Maison Bertaux was founded in 1871. Owned by sisters Michele and Tania Wade, it is known as the headquarters of the artist @MartinFirrell. The upstairs tea room shows work by comedian and artist @NoelFielding and members of Icelandic band @SigurRos among others. It is also the home of the The Maison Bertaux Theatre Club, which performs within the tiny confines of the shop. I had a long conversation with one of  the lovely sisters who was asking my opinion of what colour she should paint the frontage.

It is thought to take its name from a Greek Church, which was built in 1677 in adjacent Crown Street, now part of the west side of Charing Cross Road. The church is depicted in William Hogarth’s ‘Noon’ from Four Times of the Day.

Maison Bertaux, 28 Greek Street,Soho, W1D 5DQ

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©Barnaby Barford 2014

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Faith the collector and curator

By Eloisa Rodrigues

It is not easy to get into a collector’s mind and understand the reasons why someone chooses to gather selected objects to be part of something bigger. Collecting is a very meaningful occupation. It is a process of deliberative selection of a group of objects “to be lifted out of the common purposes of daily life and to be appropriate to carry a significant investment of thought and feeling, and so also of time, trouble and resource”, in Susan Pearce’s words[1].

Dolls, dolls’ houses, toys and teddy bears, for some reason grew in importance in Faith Eaton’s life becoming, therefore, ‘sacred’ for her. She not only owned, selected or looked after them. She made them and was knowledgeable about them as well. This archive provides some insights on why and how Faith drew her paths in the dolly’s world.

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

Writing about antique dolls for the first issue of the magazine “Dollmaking & Collecting”, Faith enlightened she knew precisely where and when her fascination for them started: her mum’s childhood dolls. In Faith’s own words:

Once upon a time a young woman discovered three of her mother’s childhood dolls in a box in a seldom opened cupboard. . . you can guess what happened next. As this is fact not fiction I can add that this momentous find took place about 1950 – when English doll collectors were as rare as three-faced Brus.[2]

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

This quote shows us a mix of personal fascination and acknowledgment of the rarity of this field. We do not know if she was sensible to the rarity of collecting dolls from the beginning of her career or it was something she learnt from her passion. However, the 1950s seemed to be a turning point not only for Faith’s career, and also for the practice of collecting dolls and doll’s house. A few important things happened in that decade. For instance, in 1953 Nerea de Clifford founded the Doll Club of Great Britain – whose mission is to ensure the preservation of dolls and dolls’ houses in addition to enable its members to share and expand their knowledge on this subject[3] – and the V&A had started to dedicate the Bethnal Green Museum to the childhood, becoming later in the 1970s our lovely Museum of Childhood. Faith Eaton was in her early 30s and although she was a trained occupational therapist she was unable to pursue this career for health reasons, and decided to take up her interest for dolls and dolls’ houses in a professional way[4].

Her first ever dolls’ house was given her by her mother when she was a child. Faith Eaton’s first doll house.  (c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

Faith’s first ever dolls’ house was given by her mother when Faith was a child. (c) Eaton Fund/V&A Museum, London

It was also in this remarkable decade that two exhibitions with the same name and purpose took place: the “Dolls Through the Ages Exhibition” of 1954 and 1959. Faith Eaton’s participation in the 1954 show is still quite uncertain for us, as the only material found in the archive (so far) is a folder of letters sent from people who wanted to be part of the show, but none of them seem to be addressed to Faith. Why would this material be found in Faith’s archive? One explanation could be the fact that Faith, in 1959, was the designer of the show with same name. You can have a sense of how the 1954 exhibition was displayed in this video:

Pathe film of 1954 Dolls Through the Ages Exhibition

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

Five years later, in 1959, the next “Dolls Through the Ages Exhibition” took place at the Ceylon Tea Place in Regent Street, in aid of the Greater London Fund for the Blind. Faith Eaton was not only the Exhibition Designer but also responsible for writing – and, therefore, selecting – the exhibition highlights. Some of the dolls were loaned by the Bethnal Green Museum. Faith recollections in the 1950 was that “[t]here were a few dolls on show in selected museums, about half a dozen books on the subject and, very occasionally, there would be an exhibition of dolls ‘in costume’ in aid of some charity”. This last note was probably on this exhibition, which displayed particular characters, as described by Gwen White in the Introduction of the exhibition’s catalogue:

Those dolls with long, long necks, and maybe with carved rings come from a land where long necks are the thing, and those with sloping shoulders tell us that at their time sloping shoulders and low cut dresses were the aim of fashionable ladies. How convenient to have one’s waist perpetually slim with no thought of diet, and to have tiny feet especially made where tiny feet are considered beautiful. Small button mouths which have just said ‘plum’, or lips parted to show teeth of straw or later of china.

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

As we mentioned in previous posts, we found a great deal of scrapbooks in Faith’s archive. That was the way she worked in order to organise and collect information, pictures, newspaper/magazine cuttings on the subjects she was passionate about. It would not be different with the Dolls Through the Ages Exhibition. Although the majority of scrapbooks were fully completed with all the information glued or sellotaped on them, this one on the other hand was left unfinished as some of the newspapers cuttings are detached and not organised.

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

 

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

Organised or not, the newspapers cuttings tell us that the exhibition was well received. One clipping shows an article entitled ‘Friendly’ and reads: ‘The exhibition was to have closed on August 7 but has been so popular that it has been extended until August 21.’

Dolls Through the Ages Exhibition was probably Faith’s first exhibition but definitely not the last one. For instance, in 1962 she also took part in an exhibition with The British Toymakers Guild entitled “Toys”, showing there some characters toys in wood. Later in her career, in 1990, she would take her whole collection to be exhibited in Sledmere House, in Yorkshire. That exhibition received the title “Treasure of Childhood” and exhibited only objects that were part of Faith’s collection.

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

(c) Faith Eaton/V&A Museum, London

Faith’s scrapbook of the exhibition showed how proud she was of her collection, and the work that went into showing it off.

 

[1] Pearce, Susan M, 1995. On collecting. An investigation into collecting in the European tradition. London: Routledge. P. 23.

[2] Eaton, Faith. Antique Dolls, in Dollmaking & Collecting, n. 1, October/November 1980, pp.7-10.

[3] http://dollclubgb.com/html/about_dcgb.html

[4] http://www.eaton-fund.co.uk/history.asp

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The Tower of Babel – Shop of the Day 153

The Tower of Babel – Shop of the Day 153

Willesden, got to be one of the best areas for shop frontage.  Take this beauty for example. Sticking with Hardware stores.  I wonder how long some of these shops will be around having just read this on wikipedia: In 2015, The Telegraph listed Willesden Green as one of their new middle-class areas of London. House prices around the station, and surrounding areas, have “outpaced the oligarch and banker hotspots of Chelsea, Westminster, and even Knightsbridge.” The Guardian mentioned Willesden Green’s fast gentrification, as well as that of nearby Queen’s Park and Kensal Green, as sending a “ripple through the borough.”

100 Craven Park Road Willesden NW10 8QD

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©Barnaby Barford 2014

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The Tower of Babel – Shop of the Day 154

The Tower of Babel – Shop of the Day 154

Had a request today so we find ourselves in Broad Lane, Seven Sisters and Tony’s Dry Cleaners.  Apparently as well as cracking service he has a female mannequin in the shop that has been dressed the same for at least 4 years.  So here’s from Martyn championing his local community. The name Seven Sisters is derived from seven elms which were planted in a circle with a walnut tree at their centre on an area of common land known as Page Green. The clump was known as the Seven Sisters by 1732.

In his early seventeenth-century work, Brief Description of Tottenham, local vicar and historian William Bedwell singled out the walnut tree for particular mention. He wrote of it as a local ‘arboreal wonder’ which ‘flourished without growing bigger’. He described it as popularly associated with the burning of an unknown Protestant.[5] There is also speculation that the tree was ancient, possibly going back as far as Roman times, perhaps standing in a sacred grove or pagan place of worship.

97 Broad Lane, Seven Sisters, South Tottenham N15 4DW

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©Barnaby Barford 2014

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Scroll-to-top-then-fixed

Chrome yanked position: sticky;, but Firefox and Safari still have it. Dudley Storey shows how to do the common sidebar pattern where a chunk follows you as you scroll down, but only when there is room for it. He does it in CSS, and the demo polyfills support with stickyfill.

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The Difference Between Minification and Gzipping

These are both things that you do to assets on your website (things like .css files and .js files). They are both things that reduce the size of the file, making it more efficient in crossing the network between servers and browsers. As in, good for performance. The network is the speed bottleneck of the web and reducing file size helps.

But these two things are distinctly different. If you didn’t already know that, it’s worth understanding.

Minification does things like removing whitespace, removing comments, removing non-required semicolons, reducing hex code lengths…

… and stuff like that. The file remains perfectly valid code. You wouldn’t want to try to read it or work with it, but it’s not breaking any rules. The browser can read it and use it just like it could the original file.

Minification creates a new file that you ultimately use. For instance, you’d create a `style.css` that you work with. Then you could minify it into `style.min.css`.

Gzipping finds all repetitive strings and replaces them with pointers to the first instance of that string.

Julia Evans created a wonderful way to understand this (see her post and video). See this first paragraph of a poem:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I {pon}dered weak an{d wea}{ry,}
Over many{ a }quaint{ and }curious volume of forgotten lore,
W{hile I }nodded, n{ear}ly napping, su{dde}n{ly }th{ere} ca{me }a t{apping,}
As{ of }so{me o}ne gent{ly }r{apping, }{rapping} at my chamb{er }door.
`’Tis{ some }visitor,’{ I }mu{tte}r{ed, }`t{apping at my chamber door}
O{nly th}is,{ and }no{thi}{ng }m{ore}.

The text within the curly brackets has been discovered by gzip to be repetitive. Thus will be replaced with a pointer that uses less space than the text itself does.

This can be incredibly effective at reducing file size, especially with code, since code be incredibly repetitive. Imagine how many instances of <div there are in an HTML file or { in a CSS file.

You can create gzipped version of files (i.e. style.css.zip) but you rarely ever do that and the browser won’t know what to do with it.

On the web, gzipping is done directly by your server. It’s a matter of configuring the server to do it. Once that’s done, gzipping automatically happens, there isn’t any ongoing work you have to do. The server compresses the file and sends it across the network like that. The browser receives the file and unzipped it before using it. I’ve never heard anyone mention anything about the overhead of zipping and unzipping, so I just assume it’s negligible and the benefits far outweigh the overhead.

Here’s how to enable it on Apache servers, where it uses the mod_deflate module. And H5BP offers server configurations for all the popular servers that include gzipping.

An Example

We’ll use the CSS file from Bootstrap since it’s such a common asset.

You’ll save about 17% minifying the CSS, 85% gzipping, or 86% if you do both.

Here’s the ideal situation when checking everything is working from DevTools:

Gzipping is far more effective. Doing both is ideal.

Gzipping reduces the file size about five times as much as minifying does. But, you get a little boost from minifying as well, and since it likely requires little additional effort in a build step, you might as well.

There is also some evidence that browsers can read and parse a minified file faster:

As expected, minification helps parse-n-load in addition to network transmission time. This is probably due to the absence of comments and extra whitespace.

Microsoft is also starting to optimize their parsers for it:

So in Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge, we’ve added new fast paths, improved inlining and optimized some heuristics in Chakra’s JIT compiler to ensure that minified code runs as fast, if not faster than the non-minified versions. With these changes, the performance of individual code patterns minified using UglifyJS that we tested, improved between 20-50%.


Caching assets is also related to this conversation, as nothing is faster than a browser that doesn’t have to request an asset at all! There is plenty of information on that around the web (or in books), but we may just do a post on it soon with some tricks.


The Difference Between Minification and Gzipping is a post from CSS-Tricks

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Forever 21: Instagram Powered Thread Screen

Forever 21 have stepped up to the plate with a new Instagram Powered Thread Screen, which in short, is a huge machine made of 200,000 parts, weighing 2,000 lbs, and taking over a year and half to engineer and build (all by hand). With the massive machine displaying users Instagrams 24 hours a day, with […]


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