Category Archives: Web pages

AJAX and Screenreaders: Screw the blind, this is the new web!

Sitepoint tries to figure out how well the Web2.0 works for blind people.

Basically, no US gov website, and none that loves blind people, will be able to implement a AJAX-only site – a noscript verson will have to be available. And this stems from the fact that it’s too hard to make the various screenreaders act in a standard way in response to changes to the document. Which sounds to me to be a perfect problem for World Wide Web Consortium standardisation.

Ajax = Chocolate = Happiness

FogBugz 4½ has been released, so that amazing new ajax features can ship:

In the last year or so a lot of web developers have been working hard on improving their applications using techniques now known as Ajax. These applications use JavaScript code so that when you click on something, you get immediate feedback, rather than waiting for the web server to send you a new page at its own leisurely pace. When they do need more information from the server, they often download the small fragment they need, rather than waiting for the server to build a whole new page. The net result is faster, crisper feedback that makes you feel in control and creates “subjective well-being,” a.k.a. happiness, a feeling that is biochemically NO DIFFERENT THAN EATING LARGE QUANTITIES OF CHOCOLATE.

Who doesn’t like chocolate?

Google Web Toolkit – Translate Java UI into AJAX

Just out – Google Web Toolkit – Build AJAX apps in the Java language. Hmmm, Java = write once, run anywhere. Should be included in most browsers. But this thing compiles java into javascript….

okay, no, seriously, what? Why are we skipping over the sandbox and into the browser?

Where are the aliens?

Coffee drinkers are easier to persuade.

Fermi’s Paradox is explained by aliens getting adicited to computer gaming.

Strom reckons he knows how to make money with a website: ads! Plus a little other stuff.

An Irishman has a rather good summery of how to negotiate an intial salary.

Cross-platform rounded corners without images, extra markup nor CSS. The holy grail of web-design dweebs.

Distributed computing, capitalist style

Here’s an idea: rather than sending advertisements to user’s computers, why not send scripting code to calculate [the valuable thing, like, I dunno, pi or hacking the encryption on HDDVD or something] and send the results back to your central computer?

Come on, you know you want to. And it’s free!

Hassles with background-image and font sizes

The other day I was working on upgrading the eVision web site to the new look (as well as the latest WordPress 2.02). While I’ve been using HTML for more than a decade, I have to admit, my grasp on CSS is patchy. I’m still picking it up. So it took a bit of wrestling to get it to (more or less) match the design provided by the graphic designer. The big graphic still isn’t in quite the right spot, but no matter, it’s still a vast improvement over the old one.

I did learn a couple of (possibly) valuable tips:

  • In Firefox, the background-image of a div doesn’t display in the portion of the div that has nothing in it. In my case, I had a UL (which forms the dropdown menu) in there, right justified. The background only appeared in the left hand bit in IE, not Firefox. I had to add a   to it to get it to appear… and then I had to specify a height, so the background image would go to the right height, instead of just the nominal height of the non-existent text.
  • Font sizes… after complaints from a colleague who is keen on big text, I had to remove all the references to pt sizes in text, in favour of em, so that IE would resize the text when asked. Firefox handles this even if you’ve got all pt sizes.
  • I also learnt I need to study CSS a bit more. The next projects will be doing some more upgrades and new WordPress themes, I think. I’ve got a few that need doing.

Browser vs Website

Am I the only person who uses Alt-D to get to the address bar in Firefox? I suppose I could also use Ctrl-L, or F6, but I’ve settled for Alt-D, probably because it can be easily done with one hand — my left hand — and is close to the bottom of the keyboard, making it easy to find.

Problem is some web sites implement access keys that conflict with this. The default setup for MediaWiki sites uses Alt-D as a shortcut for deleting pages! Thankfully it goes to an Are You Sure confirmation before actually doing it. They seem to have disabled it on Wikipedia, but others still have it.

Likewise, Horde (web mail) uses Alt-B to Blacklist mail senders, conflicting with Firefox’s Bookmarks menu.

Firefox doesn’t appear to have an about:config tweak for turning all such keys off, though altering accessibility.accesskeycausesactivation to False will merely put focus on the link with the access key, not “click” on it.

This article discusses access keys in detail, including listing the requirements for access keys on UK government sites. Alt-5 for FAQ… hmmm.


I’ve been playing around with the NVU web page editor, an open source application available for Windows, Mac and Linux. So far it’s good stuff, certainly rivalling Frontpage, and heaps better for new users looking for something cheap or free other than MS Word (which has well-known problems).

Now up to version 1.0, it probably isn’t on a par with Dreamweaver, but for basic WYSIWYG web page editing, definitely worth a look.

MSN Spaces permalink idiocy

Are Microsoft out of their minds? Why else would they create a blogging service that gives you permalinks like this:!1p7f9kFwQWrjKhwo5kIjaf_A!106.entry

If they’re going to make it illegible, they should at least make it short (eg no more than 70 characters or so, so it won’t break in emails.)

Office’s garbled HTML

Brian Jones on why Microsoft Office 2000 (and later) produces such godawful HTML:

Our scenario was that people would start saving “docs” as HTML on their intranet sites and browse them with the browser. We viewed the browser as “electronic paper” that we had to “print” to (i.e. perfect fidelity). We had already got a lot of feedback from our Word97 Internet Assistant add-in that any loss of fidelity when saving as a web page was unacceptable and a “bug”. As it turned out, this usage scenario did not become as common as we thought it would and a zillion conspiracy theories formed about why we “really” did it. Many people assumed that a better approach would have been to save as “clean” HTML even if the result did not look exactly like what the user saw on the screen. We felt that the core office applications (other than FrontPage) were not really meant to be web page authoring tools, so we focused on converting docs to exact replicas in HTML. We didn’t want people losing any functionality when saving to HTML so we had to figure out a way to store everything that could have existed in a binary document as HTML. We thought we were clever creating a bunch of “mso-” css properties that allowed us to roundtrip everything. HTML didn’t take off in the same way we had expected, and today, the main use for Office HTML is for interoperability on the clipboard, though of course the biggest use is within e-mail (WordMail).

None of this explains why Office 2003’s “Filtered HTML” is so riddled with proprietary tags, though. Admittedly, a filtered HTML file is smaller than a roundtrip HTML file out of Word, but it’s still hugely bigger than the type of HTML you’d write from scratch (or in a web page editor such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage), and the source code is unreadable.

To my mind, Filtered HTML should be just that: HTML, filtered in such a way that the basic structure of the document is preserved, but none of the junk that Word (or whatever) stores along with it. Leave that for the roundtrip HTML — though I can’t see the appeal in that either, since if you want to store documents in a viewable form on the great InterWeb, PDF is the way to go. Or just store it in the native Office format for internal use, when you know every user will have the application or a viewer.

Word warning(By the way, when I was trying out the roundtrip HTML the other day, while reloading, Word presented me with a strange warning that it was going to query from some nonsense “Z” table to put data in the document. Bizarro. The test document did quote some SQL, but this would seem to suggest the roundtrip HTML isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.)

Anyway, Brian’s full article is about the progression of the Office formats from binary in the 90s into the XML to be used in the next version. Well worth a read if you want some background on the history, and where they’re going now.