The odd bit

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

The odd bit - Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

Interesting browser stats

I just checked the browser stats for this blog and there are some interesting facts to gather from the data. Just so you know, the data is based on the past month (Aug 23 – Sep 22).

The first one is not really a surprise to me because this blog has a higher chance of attracting a more technical crowd that the average site. The number one spot is clinched by Firefox with 52.18%. Second place then of course goes to Internet Explorer with 33.88%. If I take the same browsers combined with the operating system, I end up with the following list:

  1. Firefox / Windows: 39.74%
  2. IE / Windows: 33.88%
  3. Firefox / Linux: 9.71%

Conclusion: Firefox is the leading browser on this blog on all major operating systems (Mac is further down the list with 2.74%) and thus also overall.

But what really surprised me was the browser that clinched the number 3 spot overall. My guess would’ve been Opera and while it did come close, it was just beaten by Google Chrome. I guess this shows what a strong brand name can do. I’m curious to see how Chrome’s percentage will evolve.

For the record: Safari came in fifth.

IE8 defaults to IE8 now

One of my previous posts mentioned that IE8 would default to IE7 standards mode unless web developers would specifically request the new IE8 mode. Well, there’s some good news coming from Redmond.

The IE team announced that they changed the behaviour. IE8 will now use its most standard compliant rendering mode for pages that meet the criteria for standards mode. If you, as web developer, want pages to be rendered using IE7′s standards mode you will have to use the META tag or the corresponding HTTP header. So they did the right thing and made this feature an opt-in feature: you only have to act if you want to use this feature.

I’m glad Microsoft listened to the web developer community and did the right thing. This puts the burden on the developers who don’t want to fix their pages and it might persuade them to update their code if it’s broken in a new IE version.

In other IE8 news, Beta 1 of Microsoft’s newest browser is now available. This is only intended for web developers and designers. If you are a regular user, you should skip this release.

IE8 defaults to IE7

This is surreal… I just posted about Microsoft’s latest trick with IE8 and a meta tag and I already have an update that warrants a new post. Through some reading and clicking, I arrived at a blog post by Jeremy Keith on this subject. Without going into the pros and cons of the meta tag, his post shows me three things.

The first thing is the format of the tag. It appears it will take the following form:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8" />

A second point is IE’s default behaviour. In this case, default means without any changes to existing pages. Apparently, Microsoft decided that, without meta tag, a page will be rendered in IE7 mode. I’m going to borrow Jeremy’s words because they are perfect:

Unless you explicitly declare that you want IE8 to behave as IE8, it will behave as IE7.

That’s just plain ridiculous! What’s the point of creating a new version if the default behaviour is to use the old version? I guess this is Microsoft logic.

The third point is closely related to the second one. The right default behaviour would be to use the current browser version. There is a way to activate that option by using IE=edge as… you guess it, value for the content attribute of the meta tag. Using that trick is strongly discouraged though.

So essentially this means the meta tag is not an optional step, but rather a mandatory part of creating a web page. To use the mode associated with a browser version beyond 7, you have to specify it. To disable the checks, you also have to specify it.

This is so surreal and such mess..

Microsoft does it again: IE8 and web standards

I thought this was a really early April’s fool when I first read it, but this is all over the place it just has to be true. I picked it up from Robert O’Callahan’s blog. I don’t know who keeps inventing these things, but sometimes you just can’t come up with such funny jokes no matter how hard you try.

Microsoft feels they made a mistake when they changed the behaviour of the “Standards compliant” mode between IE6 and IE7. They argue that web developers had implemented hacks to go around the imperfections of IE6′s standards mode (no kidding, the standards mode really didn’t live up to its name). Then IE7 came and it shipped with improved support for standards. But because of IE detection, IE7 received the same content as IE6 and as such the improved standards mode broke more than it fixed (that says more about the web developer though, I haven’t done a lot of fixes to be IE7-compatible).

So the folks in Redmond believe they should do something. Web pages are developed for a particular browser version and they should never break in a newer browser. It should be rendered by the engine it was created for. Microsoft’s solution? Let’s ship different rendering engines!

<insert awkward silence>

The first thing I can think of is maintenance hell. The second thing I can think of is development hell and the third thing is testing hell. So basically, IE is heading to hell. Small clue for certain readers: typing this paragraph made me think of a certain Peanut. But wait… there’s more from the Redmond Beast!

What if you, as web developer, know a page is compatible with a new IE engine? Just because you know how to do your work shouldn’t leave you with old pages stuck in an old IE version, right? Well, Microsoft agrees and they’ve come up with a way to signal which IE mode you want. You can indicate your page’s compatibility by using a … wait for it … <meta> tag! And it will be a meta tag of the http-equivalent type so you can achieve the same effect by sending an HTTP header via the server.

Is it just me or does Microsoft have a nose for picking the worst solution to solve a problem? Instead of fixing their part, they’re putting the burden on the developers once again. Before IE8 comes out, we can all waste hours/days to add their silly meta tag. This is all for Microsoft’s “Don’t break the web” philosophy. Well hello, Microsoft! You broke it in the first place, fix it without harassing us every time you release a new version of Internet Exploder.

Mind boggling questions sometimes have a really easy and simple answer. How can we make the web a better place? Get rid of IE and leave the web to browsers.

Oh, for the record: this has been made official on the IE Blog.

1440×900 or 1920×1200?

That’s the question I’m asking myself. Here are the facts:

  • 17″ laptop screen
  • Gaming is not the primary nor the secondary purpose of the laptop, but I’m not saying I won’t game on it.
  • I’m a software developer and it will likely be used for some remote dev’ing.
  • I’m used to 1280×1024 as my standard resolution.
  • I’ve looked at 1280×800 widescreen resolution and the height is not big enough for me.

The screen should either be a 1440×900 (WXGA) or a 1920×1200 (WUXGA). If price is not an issue, what would you pick given the above constraints?

And a subquestion: Is 1920×1200 too small for 17″?

Marketing: Looks vs Functionality

I’m not a fan of marketing departments (too much blah blah) but I’m feeling rather frisky so I’ll write a post about two marketing strategies I’ve been able to observe first hand. This little adventure takes place in the wonderful world of software…
The first strategy is to make the looks of an application one of the primary selling points. The goal is to make the user interface sleek, sexy, shiny, … In other words, the interface should be so appealing that potential customers may be persuaded to buy the product when just seeing a demo.

The second strategy is to sell your product based on what it can do. Not what it should be able to do, but what it really can do. Important here are flexibility and our of the box functionality, but also extensibility. Potential customers should be persuaded to buy the product based on the feature list.

In most cases, there’s a mix of both strategies but the careful observer will notice one of them has the upper hand.

I’ve worked with the same piece of software for years. The creators just had to go with the feature list because the out-of-the-box looks were not quite up to par. But it meant nearly total freedom. It has its flaws which are a bit irritating when you’ve worked with the package for some time, but there are ways around them exactly because of the freedom they give to developers.

Recently, we had to switch to a new software package. Clearly leaning to the first strategy, it seemed rather okay on a first impression. But a demo is not as good as practical experience and that’s where the bubble of the first strategy bursts. It’s rather poor under the hood, especially when you’re used to a lot of freedom. Everything’s fine as long as you stay within the out-of-the-box lines, but it feels more like hacking instead of developing/programming as soon as you need something custom.

I’m not putting a name on the two products, but I’m quite sure some of the people reading this will know what I mean. And it should be pretty clear what I prefer ;-)

New anti-spam plugin deployed

I noticed an increase in comment spam lately. Fortunately, most of them were held for moderation anyway so only the odd one got straight to the site. But today’s 34 spam comments (apart from all comments that had been automatically marked as spam) was a bit too much.

I searched for, found and deployed an anti-spam plugin. It doesn’t harass users, so no extra input is required when posting a comment. We’ll see how well the thing can hold its position.

PS: Feels like it’s been forever since I posted here…

Stardust@Home

About a year and 9 months ago, the Stardust spacecraft returned to Earth after its encounter with comet Wild-2 a year earlier. The craft was equipped with an aerogel collector to capture comet particles. Scientists estimate that Stardust also collected around 45 interstellar dust particles. That would be the first time ever and the search to find them in the aerogel has started.

Because it would take years to complete the search, the people at the Space Sciences Lab @ Berkeley decided to ask volunteers to look at scanned images of the aerogel and identify the tracks left by the interstellar particles. And the volunteer they’re looking for is you! The Stardust@Home project provides you with so called focus movies, a series of images of one point with a different focus. Then it’s up to you to spot the tracks left by dust particles.

Before you can do the real stuff you need to take a little test to see if you’re up to the task. But it’s not that hard and they have tutorials and stuff. Interested? Go and register!