Off the Top: Browsers Entries

October 22, 2010

Nokia to Nip Its Ecosystem?

First off, I admit it I like Nokia and their phones (it may be a bit more than like, actually). But, today's news regarding Nokia further refines development strategy to unify environments for Symbian and MeeGo is troubling, really troubling. Nokia is stating they are moving toward more of an app platform than software. It is a slight nuance in terms, but the app route is building light applications on a platform and not having access to underlying functionality, while software gets to dig deeper and put hooks deeper in the foundations to do what it needs. Simon Judge frames it well in his The End of Symbian for 3rd Party Development.

Killing A Valued Part of the Ecosystem

My love for Nokia is one part of great phone (voice quality is normally great, solidly built, etc.) and the other part is the software third party developers make. Nokia has had a wonderfully open platform for developers to make great software and do inventive things. Many of the cool new things iPhone developers did were done years prior for Nokia phones because it was open and hackable. For a while there was a python kit you could load to hack data and internal phone data, so to build service you wanted. This is nice and good, but my love runs deeper.

When my last Nokia (E61i) died after a few years, its replacement was a Nokia E72. I could have gone to iPhone (I find too many things that really bug me about iPhone to do that and it is still behind functionality I really like in the Nokia). But, the big thing that had me hooked on Nokia were two pieces of 3rd party software. An email application called ProfiMail and a Twitter client called Gravity. Both of these pieces of software are hands down my favorites on any mobile platform (BTW, I loathe the dumbed down Apple mail on iPhone/iPod Touch). But, I also get to use my favorite mobile browser Opera Mobile (in most cases I prefer Opera over Safari on iPhone platform as well). This platform and ecosystem, created the perfect fit for my needs.

Nearly every Nokia user I know (they are hard to find in the US, but most I know are in Europe) all have the same story. It is their favorite 3rd party applications that keep them coming back. Nearly everybody I know loves Gravity and hasn't found another Twitter client they would switch to on any other mobile platform. The Nokia offerings for email and browser are good, but the option to use that best meets your needs is brilliant and always has been, just as the unlocked phone choice rather than a carrier's mangled and crippled offering. If Nokia pulls my ability to choose, then I may choose a phone that doesn't.

Understanding Ecosystems is Important

Many people have trashed Nokia for not having a strong App Store like Apple does for iPhone. Every time I hear this I realize not only do people not understand the smartphone market that has existed for eight years or more prior to iPhone entering the market, but they do not grasp ecosystems. Apple did a smart thing with the App Store for iPhone and it solved a large problem, quality of applications and secondarily created a central place customers could find everything (this really no longer works well as the store doesn't work well at all with the scale it has reached).

While Apple's ecosystem works well, most other mobile platforms had a more distributed ecosystem, where 3rd party developers could build the applications and software, sell it directly from their site or put it in one or many of the mobile application/software stores, like Handango. This ecosystem is distributed hoards of people have been using it and the many applications offered up. When Nokia opened Ovi, which includes an app store with many offerings, many complained it didn't grow and have the mass of applications Apple did. Many applications that are popular for Nokia still are not in Ovi, because a prior ecosystem existed and still exists. That prior ecosystem is central what has made Nokia a solid option.

Most US mobile pundits only started paying attention to mobile when the iPhone arrived. The US has been very very late to the mobile game as a whole and equally good, if not better options for how things are done beyond Apple exist and have existed. I am really hoping this is not the end of one of those much better options (at least for me and many I know).

September 28, 2010

As If Had Read

The idea of a tag "As If Had Read" started as a riff off of riffs with David Weinberger at Reboot 2008 regarding the "to read" tag that is prevalent in many social bookmarking sites. But, the "as if had read" is not as tongue-in-cheek at the moment, but is a moment of ah ha!

I have been using DevonThink on my Mac for 5 or more years. It is a document, note, web page, and general content catch all that is easily searched. But, it also pulls out relevance to other items that it sees as relevant. The connections it makes are often quite impressive.

My Info Churning Patterns

I have promised for quite a few years that I would write-up how I work through my inbound content. This process changes a lot, but it is back to a settled state again (mostly). Going back 10 years or more I would go through my links page and check all of the links on it (it was 75 to 100 links at that point) to see if there was something new or of interest.

But, that changed to using a feedreader (I used and am back to using Net News Wire on Mac as it has the features I love and it is fast and I can skim 4x to 5x the content I can in Google Reader (interface and design matters)) to pull in 400 or more RSS feeds that I would triage. I would skim the new (bold) titles and skim the content in the reader, if it was of potential interest I open the link into a browser tab in the background and just churn through the skimming of the 1,000 to 1,400 new items each night. Then I would open the browser to read the tabs. At this stage I actually read the content and if part way through it I don't think it has current or future value I close the tab. But, in about 90 minutes I could triage through 1,200 to 1,400 new RSS feed items, get 30 to 70 potential items of value open in tabs in a browser, and get this down to a usual 5 to 12 items of current or future value. Yes, in 90 minutes (keeping focus to sort the out the chaff is essential). But, from this point I would blog or at least put these items into Delicious and/or Ma.gnolia or Yahoo MyWeb 2.0 (this service was insanely amazing and was years ahead of its time and I will write-up its value).

The volume and tools have changed over time. Today the same number of feeds (approximately 400) turn out 500 to 800 new items each day. I now post less to Delicious and opt for DevonThink for 25 to 40 items each day. I stopped using DevonThink (DT) and opted for Yojimbo and then as they had tagging and I could add my context (I found my own context had more value than DevonThink's contextual relevance engine). But, when DevonThink added tagging it became an optimal service and I added my archives from Together and now use DT a lot.

Relevance of As if Had Read

But, one of the things I have been finding is I can not only search within the content of items in DT, but I can quickly aggregate related items by tag (work projects, long writing projects, etc.). But, its incredible value is how it has changed my information triage and process. I am now taking those 30 to 40 tabs and doing a more in depth read, but only rarely reading the full content, unless it is current value is high or the content is compelling. I am acting on the content more quickly and putting it into DT. When I need to recall information I use the search to find content and then pull related content closer. I not only have the item I was seeking, but have other related content that adds depth and breath to a subject. My own personal recall of the content is enough to start a search that will find what I was seeking with relative ease. But, were I did a deeper skim read in the past I will now do a deeper read of the prime focus. My augmented recall with the brilliance of DevonThink works just as well as if I had read the content deeply the first time.

May 25, 2006

Developing the Web for Whom?

Google Web Developer Toolkit for the Closed Web

Andrew in his post "Reading user interface libraries" brings in elements of yesterday's discussion on The Battle to Build the Personal InfoCloud. Andrew brings up something in his post regarding Google and their Google Web Developer Toolkit (GWT. He points out it is in Java and most of the personal web (or new web) is built in PHP, Ruby [(including Ruby on Rails), Python, and even Perl].

When GWT was launched I was at XTech in Amsterdam and much of the response was confusion as to why it was in Java and not something more widely used. It seems that by choosing Java for developing GWT it is aiming at those behind the firewall. There is still much development on the Intranet done in Java (as well as .Net). This environment needs help integrating rich interaction into their applications. The odd part is many Intranets are also user-experience challenged as well, which is not one of Google's public fortés.

Two Tribes: Inter and Intra

This whole process made me come back to the two differing worlds of Internet and Intranet. On the Internet the web is built largely with Open Source tools for many of the big services (Yahoo, Google, EBay, etc.) and nearly all of the smaller services are Open Source (the cost for hosting is much much lower). The Open Source community is also iterating their solutions insanely fast to build frameworks (Ruby on Rails, etc.) to meet ease of development needs. These sites also build for all operating systems and aim to work in all modern browsers.

On the Intranet the solutions are many times more likely to be Java or .Net as their is "corporate" support for these tools and training is easy to find and there is a phone number to get help from. The development is often for a narrower set of operating systems and browsers, which can be relatively easy to define in a closed environment. The Google solution seems to work well for this environment, but it seems that early reaction to its release in the personal web it fell very flat.

13 Reasons

A posting about Top 13 reasons to CONSIDER the Microsoft platform for Web 2.0 development and its response, "Top 13 reasons NOT to consider the Microsoft platform for Web 2.0 development" [which is on a .Net created site] had me thinking about these institutional solutions (Java and .Net) in an openly developed personal web. The institutional solutions seem like they MUST embrace the open solutions or work seamlessly with them. Take any one of the technical solutions brought up in the Microsoft list (not including Ray Ozzie or Robert Scoble as technical solutions) and think about how it would fit into personal site development or a Web 2.0 developed site. I am not so sure that in the current state of the MS tools they could easily drop in with out converting to the whole suite. Would the Visual .Net include a Python, PHP, Ruby, Ruby On Rails, or Perl plug-in?The Atlas solution is one option in now hundreds of Ajax frameworks. To get use the tools must had more value (not more cost or effort) and embrace what is known (frogs are happy in warm water, but will not enter hot water). Does Atlas work on all browsers? Do I or any Internet facing website developer want to fail for some part of their audience that are using modern browsers?

The Web is Open

The web is about being browser agnostic and OS agnostic. The web makes the OS on the machine irrelevant. The web is about information, media, data, content, and digital objects. The tools that allow us to do things with these elements are increasingly open and web-based and/or personal machine-based.

Build Upon Open Data and Open Access

The web is moving to making the content elements (including the microconent elements) open for use beyond the site. Look at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the open APIs in the Yahoo Developer Network. Both of these companies openly ease community access and use of their content and services. This draws people into Amazon and Yahoo media and properties. What programming and scripting languages are required to use these services? Any that the developer wants.. That is right, unlike Google pushing Java to use their solution, Amazon and Yahoo get it, it is up to the developer to use what is best for them. What browsers do the Amazon and Yahoo solutions work in? All browsers.

I have been watching Microsoft Live since I went to Search Champs as they were making sounds that they got it too. The Live Clipboard [TechCrunch review] that Ray Ozzie gave at O'Reilly ETech is being developed in an open community (including Microsoft) for the whole of the web to use. This is being done for use in all browsers, on all operating systems, for all applications, etc. It is open. This seems to show some understanding of the web that Microsoft has not exhibited before. For Microsoft to become relevant, get in the open web game, and stay in the game they must embrace this approach. I am never sure that Google gets this and there are times where I am not sure Yahoo fully gets it either (a "media company" that does not support Mac, which the Mac is comprised of a heavily media-centric community and use and consume media at a much higher rate than the supported community and the Mac community is where many of the trend setters are in the blogging community - just take a look around at SXSW Interactive or most any other web conference these days (even XTech had one third of the users on Mac).

Still an Open Playing Field

There is an open playing field for the company that truly gets it and focusses on the person and their needs. This playing field is behind firewalls on Intranet and out in the open Internet. It is increasingly all one space and it continues to be increasingly open.

February 14, 2006

Yahoo! Releases Web Developer Golden Nuggets

An e-mail from Nate tipped me off to the Yahoo! releases today. We now have at our finger tips, Yahoo! User Interface Library, the same libraries that power Yahoo! Yahoo! Design Patterns Library, which has been the culmination of a lot of effort and is considered to be the best internal resource around and is now in our hands. Yahoo! User Interface Blog and its corresponding Yahoo! User Interface Blog feeds. Lastly, Yahoo! delivers a Graded Browser Support (article).

Once again Yahoo! shows it gets community involvement with developers and is becoming a killer resource. This is the kind of involvement and giving that raises the level for all web developers. Bravo Yahoo! and thank you Nate for your involvement.

January 1, 2006

For Many AJAX is Not Degrading, But it Must

A little over two months ago Chad Dickerson posted one of the most insightful things on his site, Web 0.1 head-to-head: 37Signals' Backpackit vs. Gmail in Lynx. You are saying Lynx? Yes! The point is what 37Signals turns out degrades wonderfully and it is still usable. It could work on your mobile device or on a six year old low end computer in Eritrea in a coffee house or internet cafe (I have known two people who have just done that in the last year and found Gmail did not work nor did MSN, but Yahoo did beautifully).

Degrading is a Good Thing

Part of my problem with much of the push towards AJAX (it is a good, no great thing that XMLHTTPRequest is finally catching on). But, it must degrade well. It must still be accessible. It must be usable. If not, it is a cool useless piece of rubbish for some or many people. I have been living through this with airline sites (Continental), commerce sites (Amazon - now slightly improved), actually you name it and they adopted some where in this past year. In most cases it did not work in all browsers (many times only in my browser of last resort, which by that time I am completely peeved).

When Amazon had its wish list break on my mobile device (I (and I have found a relatively large amount of others this past couple years doing the same thing) use it to remember what books I want when I am in brick bookstores and I will check book prices as well as often add books to my wish list directly) I went nuts. The page had a ghastly sized JavaScript, which did some nice things on desktops and laptops but made the page far too large to download on a mobile device (well over 250 kb). In the past few weeks things seemed to have reversed themselves as the page degrades much better.

Is There Hope?

Chad's write-up was a nice place to start pointing, as well as pointing out the millions of dollars lost over the course of time (Continental admitted they had a problem and had waived the additional phone booking fee as well as said their calls were up considerably since the web redesign that broke things for many). Besides Chad and 37Signals I have found Donna Mauer's Designing usable rich internet applications as a starting point. I also finally picked up DOM Scripting: Web Design with JavaScript and the Document Object Model by Jeremy Keith, which focusses on getting JavaScript (and that means AJAX too) to degrade. It is a great book for designers, developers, and those managing these people.

I have an awful lot of hope, but it pains me as most of us learned these lessons five to seven years ago. Things are much better now with web standards in browsers, but one last hurdle is DOM standardization and that deeply impacts JavaScript/DOMScripting.

August 25, 2005 and MyWeb Combo Bookmarklet

I took two of my favorite bookmarklets (for and Yahoo MyWeb 2, put them in my javascript collider to get a Combo Tag Tool (drag this to your browser's bookmark bar.

By clicking on this bookmarklet you get the tag interface populated with the title. You also get a MyWeb entry pop-up window.

I have been seeing the early benefits of Yahoo's MyWeb, but I also want to keep the community I have in Keeping both up to date and in sync is my goal and hopefully this will help you do the same.

July 22, 2005

Make Nice with Mobile Users Easily

Those interested in making friendly with their mobile users trying to consume their content aimed at the desktop browser market should take a peek at Make Your Site Mobile Friendly by Mike Davidson. This is one method that makes for a little less sweat and keeps some dollars in our budgets for other needs.

August 31, 2004

Microsoft Security Program Manger Uses Firefox

You know that when the Microsoft Security Program Manager has to run Firefox things are not good for IE on the security front.

Browse Happy highlights stories of real people who have chosen browsers other than Microsoft IE and are quite happy with the change.

August 23, 2004

Browse Happy

The Web Standards Project (WaSP) has launched (and will continue to sponsor) Browse Happy. Browse Happy is a site that focusses on web browser alternatives to Microsoft IE. Many computers come with IE installed, either as part of the operating system or as an arrangement with the producer of the operating system.

Over the years Microsoft has listened to complains about their browser's lack of standards compliance (no browser was doing this well at the time). They took a huge leap and built a browser that was much better at complying to the standards than others. This allowed the developers of sites and content to work to no longer build to each browser but build to one standards. IE at this point was not perfect, but it was so much better than it ever was and it truly allowed the developers to build to specifications and have it run well on standards compliant browsers. Nearly everybody loved Microsoft for their advancements.

Unfortunately Microsoft thought good was well enough and stopped IE development in 2001. It was not and is not fully standards compliant. On standards IE is now far behind nearly all the other browsers that are standards compliant that a developer must hack their perfectly valid code to get it to work properly in an IE browser. Sites that develop for IE have serious problems when viewed in other browsers, which is becoming more and more the trend as mobile devices take off and people are forced to replace IE because of security problems.

Enough about the poor little developer, it is the people who are the user of web browsers that should be the attention. Many have realized that are are better options than IE. As IE development stopped in 2001 (except for excessive security patches) the rest of the browser developers continued to make progress. As it is with any technology, if one stands still with development others will pass them and possibly make them irrelevant.

Other browsers have now passed IE on, not only standards compliance, but accessibility (do you have problems reading all sites because the type is too small, well nearly all other browsers let you easily change the type to make it larger and easier to read), render the pages faster (this makes the pages show up much faster on the screen), very few rendering bugs (all the content will show up on the page), better user experience with ease of use (tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking, etc.), and more secure (U.S. Department of Homeland Security has not warned people to stop using other browsers as the security problems, while they occasionally arise on other browsers, are not regular events that require people to continually update their browser).

Browser Happy is a collection of real people who have found the world of non-IE browsers and have found the painful experiences of IE are not needed. They have found the other browsers are very easy to load on their machine. These real people have also found they can return to the joy of browsing the web that they once knew in more innocent times.

July 16, 2004

Web Standards and IA Process Married

Nate Koechley posts his WebVision 2004 presentation on Web Standards and IA. This flat out rocks as it echos what I have been doing and refining for the last three years or more. The development team at work has been using this nearly exclusively for about couple years now on redesigns and new designs. This process makes things very easy to draft in simple wireframe. Then move to functional wireframes with named content objects in the CSS as well as clickable. The next step is building the visual presentation with colors and images.

This process has eased the lack of content problem (no content no site no matter how pretty one thinks it is) often held up by "more purple and make it bigger" contingents. This practice has cut down development and design time in more than half and greatly decreases maintenance time. One of the best attributes is the decreased documentation time as using the Web Developer Extension toolbar in Firefox exposes the class and id attributes that provide semantic structure (among many other things this great tool provides). When the structure is exposed documentation becomes a breeze. I can not think of how or why we ever did anything differently.

July 1, 2004

One Less Browser Option?

The talk on Metro this evening between a few folks was whether they would be able to use Internet Explorer the following day at work. The security hole in the browsers have been very problematic over the years, with this past year being particularly bad. This newest security hole permits your keystrokes to be copied by another party with out the user ever knowing. The warnings have been for banks, but it has spread to any log on, password, credit card number, or any information imaginable secure or wide-open, it does not matter.

Molly's WaSP Buzz entry outlining mainstream publications advising user to stop using the browser and Slate's "Are the Browser Wars Back? How Mozilla's Firefox trumps Internet Explorer" article frame the problems and options well.

My personal favorite browser on Windows is Firefox, which is one of the Mozilla browsers (it is the makers of the guts of the newest Netscape browser. On Mac I am a fan of Safari and Firefox and have both running at all times. You have options for browsing. Hopefully your bank and other purveyors of information were not foolish enough to build to just one browser.

June 18, 2004

Mozilla to Go Mobile

Nokia funding Mozilla mobile browser. This is a great step forward for mobile browsing, not to knock Opera or Openwave, but another great mobile browser can only be a good thing.

November 1, 2003

QuirksMode launched

I nearly forgot, Peter-Paul Koch has delivered QuirksMode filled with the good stuff for JavaScript, CSS, etc.

October 7, 2003

Building Web pages for crippled IE browser

Microsoft and others are posting the work arounds needed for the Web pages you build if they require plug-ins. Java and Active Script seem to been the focus at this point. Here we go: Microsoft guide for building to the new neutered IE browser, Apple developer guide for post EOLA development, Real Networks guide for embedded, and Macromedia guide. [hat tip Craig Salia]

September 16, 2003

September 14, 2003

Love for Mac and UNIX grows

I finally picked up my PC from the shop, where it had been for about three weeks or a month getting a new power supply. This also included a couple weeks for me getting around to picking it up from the shop. When I got the heap home it had 9 critical updates, comprising 15MB to download and about 35 minutes of updating, not including two additional critical updates after the first batch of 9 was completed.

Nearly all of these were vulnerability patches (they all may have been, but I will give MS the benefit of the doubt as I did not want to read, this patch fixes "X" only to be followed by two more patches explaining the first patch did not actually fix the vulnerability, but opened two new holes. Then a third patch to try and fix the original "X" vulnerability again.

This month of sending out a fully patched machine and having it return with more examples of shoddy coding, make me ever more grateful to have a Mac. You see I have had one vulnerability needing to be patched in the last two months on the Mac. The reason viruses are not often written for the Mac is that it is built on a mature operating system, UNIX (essentially BSD to be exact) that has been tightened over the years. The UNIX platform towers above the horrible dross that is Microsoft. The money wasted by businesses and others patching and leaving their bits and bytes open to the world of hackers and children playing hoaxes on a poorly crafted operating system is foolish at the least.

The PC is used for games now and testing how poor the soon to be neutered Windows version of Internet Explorer (others may be neutered too) handles displaying the results of standards compliant markup and the output of various applications built for Web-based information gathering and dissemination.

July 20, 2003

Bray on browsers and standards support

Tim Bray has posted an excellent essay on the state of Web browsers, which encompasses Netscape dropping browser development and Microsoft stopping stand alone browser development (development seemingly only for users MSN and their next Operating System, which is due out in mid-2005 at the earliest).

Tim points out users do have a choice in the browsers they choose, and will be better off selecting a non-Microsoft browser. Tim quotes Peter-Paul Koch:

[Microsoft Internet] Explorer cannot support today's technology, or even yesterday's, because of the limitations of its code engine. So it moves towards the position Netscape 4 once held: the most serious liability in Web design and a prospective loser.

This is becoming a well understood assessment from Web designers and application developers that use browsers for their presentation layer. Developers that have tried moving to XHTML with table-less layout using CSS get the IE headaches, which are very similar to Netscape 4 migraines. This environment of poor standards compliance is a world many Web developers and application developers have been watching erode as the rest of the modern browser development firms have moved to working toward the only Web standard for HTML markup.

Companies that develop applications that can output solid standards compliant (X)HTML are at the forefront of their fields (see Quark). The creators of content understand the need not only create a print version, but also digitally accessible versions. This means that valid HTML or XHTML is one version. The U.S Department of Justice, in its Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities report advises:

When posting documents on the website, always provide them in HTML or a text-based format (even if you are also providing them in another format, such as Portable Document Format (PDF)).

The reason is that HTML can be marked-up to provide information to various applications that can be used by those that are disabled. The site readers that read (X)HTML content audibly for those with visual disabilities (or those having their news read to them as they drive) base their tools on the same Web standards most Web developers have been moving to the past few years. Not only to the disabled benefit, but so do those with mobile devices as most of the mobile devices are now employing browsers that comprehend standards compliant (X)HTML. There is no need to waste money on applications that create content for varied devices by repurposing the content and applying a new presentation layer. In the digital world (X)HTML can be the one presentation layer that fits all. It is that now.

Tim also points to browser options available for those that want a better browser.

July 15, 2003

Netscape goes byebye and Mozilla rises from the ashes

Today AOL axed Netscape. Yes, the Netscape browser and Netscape company is no more. This is sad as it was a free distribution of a browser that has been focussing on Web Standards and has greatly embraced those that understand the importance of building a browser to Web Standards.

Today, the Mozilla Foundation launched with 2 million U.S. dollars from AOL. This is to support the open source continuation of the Mozilla browser, which is the core of the Netscape browser. This is very important and helpful. The Mozilla and Netscape browser in their most recent versions have been some of the better Standards compliant browsers on the market.

Some weeks ago when Microsoft announced it had built its last stand alone browser in IE 6, things did not look so bad for standards browsers as Netscape and Mozilla were still players in the market. This site has seen the Netscape 6 and 7 (along with Mozilla variants) rise to 30 to 40 percent of all visitors in recent months. Apple Safari browsers to this site are about 10 to 15 percent. But, that is who makes up much of the readership here.

Microsoft's statement was very disappointing on a couple fronts for me. One is it is one of the most buggy "modern" browsers when working with CSS box model on Windows machines. The other important impact is IE on Windows does not adjust all font sizes as their version IE 5 on Mac browser first did, and now nearly all other modern browsers do. These two major downfalls of the Windows IE browser make Web developers jobs much harder, but the lack font resizing pokes the aging population right in the eye. The next MS browser will be bundled with their next Operating System, which is due out in late 2005 at the earliest.

I had been finding a couple trends in the past couple years. People that have decreasing vision have tended to use Netscape 6 or higher, Opera 6 or higher, or other modern browsers (including IE 5 for Mac) because they could easily change the font size so they could access the information. I had been surprised with the large number of Non-Win IE users with less than perfect vision, but when explained that the desire to have access to all information was important it made sense.

The competing item is many older folks do not know how to adjust their font size in the browsers that they do have. These older folks often do not know how easy it is to switch to a browser that has the ability to change all text to a size that is easy to read. This is truly sad for these folks. The current computing market is not to the point where their is true ease of use for product, nor freedom of choice for the non-technically inclined (this day will come, someday). The saddest part is the company with the most resources and the capability to do this most easily, Microsoft, essentially raised its middle finger at this aging population (intentionally or not they showed they did not care). Now, its longtime competitor with the next greatest market share is gone from the market.

Others with comments:
Doug Bowman
Molly Holzschlag
Eric Meyer
Jeffrey Zeldman and JZ part II
Nick at Digital Web

June 23, 2003

Safari renders pages much better

Yes, I downloaded the new Apple Safari browser and it now nearly perfectly renders one page it has always mangled. I can now read the International Herald Tribune in my favorite browser.

The one downside in the few minutes of playing with Safari is it still does not let the user tab between all form elements. The user can not tab to select boxes, nor check boxes. This is a major usability problem in my viewpoint, but I may switch and use it to use the CMS tools here are as I need the spell checking.

June 13, 2003

IE on Mac says bu-bye

All around the Web the announcement of the end of development of the MS IE browser (as pointed out by Tantek). Microsoft points to Apple users being better served by Safari, which seems very odd for Microsoft to claim. I am far happier with IE on Mac than I am with it on Windows.

During the redesign of this site to XHTML and CSS for layout and presentation I initially stayed to by the book and standards CSS. It took a couple tweaks to get IE on Mac to display what Camino (formerly Chimera) and other Mozilla variants displayed. I was still using unhacked CSS. When I finally had a look at what was happening from a Windows machine at work IE 6 was way off (the Windows box at home was off line for nearly 6 months as XP Home did not like the DSL connection and the connection speed was a third to half slower than on my Mac.

This experience truly had me appreciative of the work that Tantek and others put into the product. Many of the Microsoft product seem to be better built for the Mac than their Windows counter parts. IE on Mac has definately been a shining star for Microsoft in my opinion.

I still tend to use IE on Mac for online banking and some e-commerce efforts as some site's use javascript or other elements that do not quite function right in other browsers. I have been hoping for an update to catch up in speed of rendering to that of Safari or Camino and to fix a few remaining bugs in how it renders standards based sites (W3C standards not, what Redmond calls standards). Ciao IE.

June 5, 2003

CSS2 Browser support matrix

Mac Edition offers a Abridged Guide to CSS2 Support that documents in a matrix which browsers support what. Keep in mind that Gecko is Mozilla, which is Netscape 6 and up as well as Firebird (an insanely fast and standards compliant browser). It is also good to note that Gecko-based browsers render the same regardless of operating system, unlike Internet Explorer, which is different depending on operating systems. The matrix also includes how the browsers hold up to various hack tests, most of the test are for box model layout (Tantek and Owen Briggs tests included).

May 29, 2003

CSS and Microsoft's poor excuse for a browser

Tim Bray adds to the Microsoft IE is garbage chant that has been spreading around the Web developer community for some time. Oddly, until I think of Tantek, the IE browser on Mac is far more compliant. The font sizing issues that Tim discusses are largely only a problem on Windows version of IE browsers. Most other modern browsers (Mozilla (including its Netscape 6 and 7 variants), Opera, Safari, etc. all resize fonts even if the fonts are set in pixels.

In the accessibility community having a fixed pixel size has been taboo for some time. As I talk with more people with vision problems I find most do not use Windows IE browser to view sites, but choose one of the other modern browsers as they allow easy scaling of fonts (some like Opera even scale images). This seems to be a trait across the visually challenged users. Most users with visual difficulties have a strong dislike for the Microsoft browser just on this point alone. A few have mentioned they really like Mozilla browsers as they can easily change the skin on the browser to make the buttons and other elements more visible.

Me, I can read Tim's site just fine, which is ideal as Tim understands the problems and knows where the blame should reside.

Note: The MS IE browser on Windows shows its downfalls to those that are trying to us modern Web development techniques by using CSS layouts rather than table layouts for their work. As Web developers learn tableless layout is a pain to learn initially, largely because of IE 6 and lower do not follow the rules properly. To get Windows IE to render properly one has to hack the valid CSS to get the browser to render the page as does a browser that follows the standards. The irony is Microsoft claims to own the CSS patent.

May 10, 2003

IE blows up with valid HTML

Mark Pilgrim discusses human readable HTML and fatal IE browser bugs. The more bugs that are found in current versions of the Microsoft IE browser on Windows, the more I believe that IE is the current incarnation of Netscape 4. Netscape 4 was known for its lack of playing nicely with Web standards. IE 6 does horribly with valid CSS and now seem like it blows up with valid HTML. Nearly all other modern browsers play more nicely with valid CSS and do not have the problems with valid HTML. (Apple's Safari is not perfect yet, but Apple states their browser is beta.)

April 19, 2003

Safari getting better, but still has some bumps

I am guessing most everybody that has Mac OS X is aware that Safari browser has a new Beta release (build 73), which has added some new elements (such as tabs), and fixed some bugs.

One element they have not addressed is tabbing through form forms. I don't like switching between the mouse and keyboard as I prefer to stick with one imput device when working on a task. The Safari browser frustrates me as I can not fillout forms easily with out grabbing the mouse to choose an item in a select box (menu) or to click radio buttons. Tabbing between these elements is a common interface function that is in nearly every other browser I can think of.

I tend to fill in many forms, one I regularly fill out is the one that builds what you are reading here. I can enter text in the body of the entry and I can add a title for the entry, but selecting location and entry type, as well as clicking the categories that apply are only doable with a mouse.

I do like the spelling functionality in Safari, the speed of the page builds, and other nice features, but the lack of tabbing through forms properly is a large down side. I am tending to enter longer entries in Safari and shorter entries in Camino (formerly Chimera).

One of the other downsides is not all pages are working properly in Safari yet. The International Herald Tribune is very buggy in Safari still and some sites still do not even appear. It is getting there and I know if I use other, slower browsers I can get to the information properly.

March 7, 2003

Chimera now Camino offers update

My favorite browser name, Chimera became Camino and is now in version .7 (yes, pre-version 1). I did a download of the browser and wow, the sucker is fast. I was a Chimera/Camino fan before Safari came along. Camino now seems to have speed in the Safari ballpark, with tabs, and wonderful rendering as always. What I now with Camino would get is spell checking. I am somewhat torn between the two browsers, but the speed of both and the standards compliance of Camino really make it painful to use IE on a Mac.

IE is my dirty browser, in that I mean I have my Amazon cookies stored and other cookies stored. The other two browsers I try to keep clean so I can see what everybody else sees without my personalization set. Safari is where I keep my handful of bookmarks for works in progress and links I have not yet added to the links page. Camino is where I maintain my site. Regular Mozilla and Netscape are over burdened with "stuff" and much slower than Safari or Camino.

February 13, 2003

Apple upgrade make things zippy

I have upgraded Apple's upgraded beta of Safari, X11 upgrade, and Mac OS X 10.2.4. These upgrades have my Mac zipping along again. I am not sure what happens with each upgrade, but the performance improves on my TiBook with each upgrade. I have yet to have any buggy nature with an Apple upgrade. On Windows every few upgrades from Microsoft would cause a minor or extravagant disaster and never did it make the machine run faster. Have I ever said how much I love Apple?

January 16, 2003

Spell check in the browser

Hot damn Batman, I am loving the spell check feature in Apple's Safari browser. This should help the quality of the spelling here in Off the Top (I know you are disappointed and many believed the poor spelling was an ingenious method of for me to find my own entries, knowing this is my backup brain) and in comments on other sites. I tend to think in text boxes and e-mail and somewhat publicly.

Those of you that have not turned on the spell checking can find it under the edit menu in the spelling flyout and should check the "spell as you type" item. This item does not have a short cut, but it may be worth keeping turned on all the time.

January 12, 2003

AppleScripts for Safari

Apple Scripts for Safari is a good place to watch for helpful tools. I am finding there is not a "mail link" in Safari, well that I could find. I may take my first whack at AppleScript to scratch this itch. [hat tip Jason]

January 11, 2003

January 7, 2003

Mark offers solid review of Safari

Mark Pigrim offers the most helpful review of Apple Safari browser. Mark lays out the downsides to the browser and the need for some work arounds.

Apple provides new tools

Steve Jobs did the usual at the Macworld Keynote speach, great new products. The new 17 inch powerbook has severe lust factor as did the Airport Extreme with 802.11g (55MB of wireless connectivity and a USB print capability). The iLife tools are very cool and will be very helpful. But the two items that really got me intrigued were the Keynote a presentation tool and Safari Apples Web browser.

Keynote intrigued me from the beauty of it and its storing all the content in XML. The XML functionality could make reuse of the information in presentations actually usable, unlike the hardwork to extract content from PowerPoint. But, as we know presentation software is best with the speaking note or the spoken versions that go along with the presentation. Keynote could be a good first step. At least Apple is thinking in the right direction with a beautiful product that provides easy reuse.

Safari had me dying to get home to my Mac to download and test it. So far I am very impressed with not only the speed, which is great, but the proper rendering of pages. Safari handles XHTML and CSS box model beautifully. I only had so problems in Tantek's CSS examples. I went through much of Eric Meyer's CSS site worked very well with no discernable problems that I saw. I am very happy with it. It really could use back function on its right mouse menu. Time will tell if this replaces Chimera as my browser of choice.

July 24, 2002

New Chimera rocks

Chimera version 0.4.0 was released today for Mac OS X and it flat out rocks. It is fast and is seemingly more usable than the previous version. If you are a Mac OS X users it is work the download.

June 30, 2002

Font size sample gallery

A sample browser font size gallery is available for the Microsoft fonts (Ariel, Courier New, Timew New Roman, Verdana).

June 7, 2002

OS X with Moz and Silk

I agree with Damien that Mozilla 1.0 for OS X and Silk (thanks to Brad for his tip in the comments on Moz 1 regarding Silk) is a great browser combination. Silk also helps reading in other on the TiBook when I have the screen turned low to save battery. Silk is similar to Microsofts Clear Type, but with out the fuzz factor, at least on a laptop.

June 5, 2002

Mozilla 1.0

If you were unaware or travelling in other social circles, Mozilla 1.0 is released.

June 1, 2002

CCS with Moz bugs annotated

From the "this will be insanely helpful" department, CSS-1 with annotated Mozilla bugs. This could be a first-turn resource when the huhs? start. [hat tip Scott]

May 29, 2002

Chimera browsing

Like a lemming I downloaded Chimera, a browser that speeds along on Mac OS X. I am really loving the speed and the easy readability of Chimera.

April 25, 2002

WYSIWYG in browser part two

The second part to theWYSIWYG editor in a Web browser is available. This section gets into implementing the HTML portion from the first section into the storage components of this article.

April 18, 2002

Mozilla release candidate 1 is out finally. I have downloaded it on my XP machine and it works wonderfully. After a nap or a good night sleep I will load it on the Mac.

April 16, 2002

Related to using the proper URL in the doctype, IE 6 renders table content as centered when wrapping the table with center tag. The article explains when this happens and how to work around the problem. One option is not using centering (either in a div align or in the deprecated center tag). It seems setting the CSS is the best work around. We have found using the center tag to be far more problematic than the div align usage of center. (Yes, we have to support "older" browsers at work).

Zeldman explains proper Doctype usage to have the browser use the Doctype you intend it to use. Many Web development applications leave off the URL from the Doctype statement, which renders the lowest common denominator in many browsers.

March 29, 2002

AOL and browser selection

I knew somebody would see the bright side of AOL switching to Mozilla browser, (for those who don't know Mozilla is what is under Netscape and it is Open Source). I personally could not see the dark side to the switch. I guess there might be a few poor souls that don't know how to code by the standards, or may not know there are standards. I feel even worse for the fools that paid money for insipid Web pages that are not coded properly. If it is built in a browser and the developer does not know the interface (in the browser case the document object model (DOM) they are getting paid too much).

March 14, 2002

While I was enjoying myself in Austin Mozilla released 0.9.9, which means the next release is 1.0. You bet I am happy about that news. I am wondering how long it will be before Netscape will make their build on 1.0? What will Netscape call it?

February 23, 2002

Can't get enough about Mozilla? Blogzilla may be our answer. This is a weblog devoted to the Moz. (By the way Mozilla is extremely fast on OS X and is becoming my favorite browser on that platform.) [hat tip Scott]

February 21, 2002

Scott offers a great rant on understanding the Web client. Scott is not a generalist, he understands the details of the interface. Did I mention he is providing specialist information in the Dynamic HTML Bible? Bow down and be a sponge when Scott speaks as you will learn a lot.

February 12, 2002

Web Page Design for Designers offers a browser size test that lets us choose the pixel size of the browser, Mac or PC, and IE or Netscape to view our pages. This tool is a great one for our tool belt. [hat tip xblog]

February 5, 2002

Wahoo, the Mozilla build, 0.9.8, is out. Mozilla on OS X is great. I had a build problem two releases ago on XP, so this may be the time to give it a go again.

December 10, 2001

I was having some problems with my Real Player 8 and MS IE not allowing me to "view source" on my Windows XP box. It turns out both of these problems are attributable to a full Internet Temp directory. By deleting the files in this temp directory both sets of functionality return. Who knew I would fill 1GB of temp space in two or three weeks.

November 6, 2001

AnyBrowser provides a good testing resource to check how your site looks in other browsers all with out leaving your computer.

Web-Building provides website development resources. Don't be afraid of the initial presentation, this is a one-stop-shopping resource for HTML, scripting, application development, and everything in between.

November 1, 2001

CNet offers a browser death match reviewing the Microsoft IE6 and Netscape 6.2 offerings. It is largely a dead heat. I have been using NS 6.2 and I am quite pleased with it. It is fast, solid, and renders pages very nicely. Both browsers are standars compliant (unlike what MS would like to have you believe) and offer very good experiences.

Are you using a Mozilla based browser, such as Netscape 6x? You may want to grab the XUL useragent toolbar, which allows you to overwrite your general.useragent (the component in the Web browser that states its browser type to the Web sites). Why is this important? If you are using Netscape 6x or Mozilla and the folks maintaining the site have not added the proper browser sniffing to include these browsers you may not find the site usable. As NS6x and Mozilla are Web standards compliant, as is IE 5.5 and up, you should be able to set your useragent to reflect IE 5.5 or IE 6 and find the site perfectly usable.

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