Browser Wars

Category: Computing Devices
Mon, 09 Jun 2008, 18:57

The last time I visited my family, I used my sister's computer to check my favorite on-line forums. But first, I installed Firefox. For some reason, my brother-in-law took a fit, and insisted I remove it. That really took me by surprise since Firefox is, of course, the superior browser.

They use Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, and since I'd never seen it before, I thought I'd have a look to see what it was like. Wow! Was I underwhelmed! I looked at it and wondered what the heck they were thinking of when they came up with this new version.

IE

Have a look at the above screen-shot of a MS IE window. The menu bar is in an unexpected place, replaced by a couple of navigation buttons. There's a button labelled "Bookmarks", but using it requires one to be logged into Google. The "Favorites" menu can now be reached by clicking on some other button, but that's not immediately obvious. In the previous version, you could rearrange the buttons to get a more compact appearance, but version 7 limits your personalization choices.

FF

On the other hand, here's what my Firefox window looks like. To maximize the area devoted to the web page, I have the navigation buttons and fields on the same line as the menu items. Perhaps it's mainly a matter of personal taste, but I find this a less cluttered and easier to use arrangement of the important controls.

And now to the main point of today's rant. For a long time, I've always advocated designing web pages using the agreed-upon standards to ensure that the pages can be viewed using any browser, and I still believe in that. However, how much longer do we have to put up with the bugs and non-standard behaviors of Microsoft's browser? Other browsers, like Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Konqueror, can implement the standards properly? Why should web developers have to go through hoops and handstands to support a non-compliant browser?

That said, I've started to implement CSS properties that work best in Firefox and Safari. As a result, pages on my site, www.boldts.net, now look the best rendered by those browsers. Under Konqueror and Opera they look fine, but IE has trouble rendering certain features properly. Do I care? No. There's no reason the average web user can't upgrade to a better browser. The market share of Firefox continues to rise as people make the comparison.

To be fair, Microsoft is working on a new version of their browser, and when released, may well be a more standards-compliant browser. But why wait when proper choices exist today?

Omnifariously yours, Hans

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For Me, It's Back to Work!

Category: Computing Devices
Thu, 05 Jun 2008, 18:43

I haven't been blogging much lately. It's sometimes difficult finding the time to type my thoughts into a coherant form. For the past few weeks that's been especially true, since I started a new job.

When I started my job search back in September, I figured my most marketable skills were in the iSeries area. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of openings for iSeries programmers. I applied for a couple of iSeries positions, but neither of them resulted in so much as the time of day! Many iSeries boosters will argue that their favorite system has a bright future. But based on my own direct experience, I must sincerely disagree.

I did find a job, though. But it has little in common with my previous job. In fact, I had to explain what an iSeries was to my interviewer! My new job is giving me lots of opportunities to learn new things, like Zope, Plone, and OpenBSD, just to name a few.

man in a hurry

And unlike my previous job, which required me to commute 50km a day by car, I can now take public transit to work. A generally relaxing trip on a GO train followed by a 20 minute walk gets me to my job in a century-old building in Toronto's Fashion District.

Without a doubt, GO Transit is the best way to get downtown from the suburbs. I pay a little over eight dollars a day to ride the train. If I were still driving to my previous job, I'd probably be paying at least that much for gasoline every day! One big advantage of taking the train is that I can read the newspaper and do the daily Sudoku. You can't do that while driving!

The walk between Union Station and the office is interesting. It's hard to avoid walking past some city landmarks, such as the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, or the CBC building. It's fun to watch the tourists taking pictures of each other sitting beside the Glenn Gould sculpture!

Sure, there are some disadvantages to a downtown job, such as dealing with hordes of other commuters. Also, the track level at Union Station has to be the most dreary of any major railroad station I've ever seen. I know public money is tight these days, and they're doing what they can to improve service, but couldn't they find some money to at least replace the roof over the tracks at Union Station?

On the whole, though, I think it's going to be interesting working downtown. I'm sure eventually I'll get bored with Toronto's downtown. And maybe it's unreasonable to expect long term employment from any company. But for now, it's a new and fun adventure!

Omnifariously yours, Hans

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