Archive for the ‘Browsers’ Category

TapFlash Bang Wallop

16 Jun 2010 15:41 by Rick

Little known fact—Adobe Flash has to be installed on BOTH Internet Explorer and any alternative browser you have even if you don’t use them.

Well known fact—Installing Adobe Flash is a pain in the backside.

The official method is to go to click on “Get Adobe Flash Player” and follow the instructions remembering to un-tick the undesirable “free offers” on the way. It goes on to perform up to two restarts of the browser using a download manager.

This process is incredibly complex, unnecessary and very prone to failure. On one of my systems the Download Manager aborts, on another it is blocked by a firewall I don’t control; on a third it wants missing plugins—just the ones I am trying to install! Even if it works you can end up with more stuff than you want.

They haven’t made it easy to avoid, whatever route you take you always get to the same “Agree and Install Now” button, but there is a way. Near the top of the Flash player install page is a link titled “Different operating system or browser”. Clicking that takes you to a menu page—select the OS you are using and Continue. Now you get two choices “Internet Explorer” and “Other Browsers”. You CANNOT select the browser you are using—that will take you straight back to where you started; but if you select the other one then the “Agree and Install Now” button does a straightforward download of an executable (without any free extras). The trick is to use each browser to download the code for the other one and then just run them. If you need them on other systems then put them on a memory stick, it saves a lot of time.

TapMy Hovercraft is Full of Eels

25 May 2010 12:46 by Rick

One aspect of web design that has become very popular in recent years is the functionality available by hovering the mouse pointer over some object and for it to do things. Hovering in this case means moving the pointer over the object but not clicking any buttons.

The effects can be achieved in a number of ways. One of the simplest is automatic in many browsers; if you hover over some pictures and links, if they have the “title” attribute then that title will pop up in a little box. Try it in the “Latest Comments” in the sidebar of this blog. Another simple and more controllable method is to use the CSS property “a:hover”. You can also see that in action on the sidebar and almost all other links on here—the background changes colour as you move over the link. Other effects can be achieved in the same way, some more desirable than others.

A more complex but much more versatile method can be obtained using Javascript “onmouseover” and “onmouseout” properties. A good example of this can be seen on our church website: the drop-down menu is created using that type of code. Another very widely used technique is using Adobe Flash. In fact it seems that nearly all Flash objects use mouse hover actions in some way. Take for example YouTube; The video starts automatically (I hope you enjoy it), but if you move the mouse over it then the progress bar becomes more prominent. This is even more pronounced on Vimeo. Other uses of Flash are much more sophisticated using not only hover but mouse movement to activate functions; games often do this.

Now to the point—how do you hover on a touch screen? I have done a few experiments using an iPod Touch and have discovered that the title & CSS codes don’t work at all; there is no way of activating the hover functions. Javascript, however, seems to be quite clever; the first touch activates the hover functions and touching elsewhere cancels it. If you want the click function then you need to touch the object twice. This means that the drop-down menus work intuitively. In fact I hadn’t noticed what was happening until I consciously thought about it. But Flash is just a big bag of eels. As we have been made very aware recently, it doesn’t work on the iP* devices at all. If Adobe/Google ever get it working properly for the Android phones, I wonder how they will cope with the crippled UI? Many video web sites like YouTube detect the device type and send a different form of video to mobiles and Apple is banking on this happening generally. HTML5 promises to offer many features in this area but each will need to be considered in the context of the user.

The challenge for web designers is to think in advance for mobile devices and how people will interact with then and also to do extensive testing on different types. For professionals they can offset samples against tax and expenses but for people like me; no chance, I will just have to think, hope and pray.

TapInternational TLD

8 May 2010 10:56 by Rick

A few days ago (5 May) saw a great leap forward in the development of the internet. For the first time, top level domain names (TLD) are permitted using non-Latin scripts. In particular, three country codes have been assigned by ICANN. These are for مصر (Egypt), السعودية (Saudi Arabia) and امارات (United Arab Emirates). They are the first country codes which are not two characters (except the “cat” = Catalan anomaly), possibly because they thought there was no need to maintain the restriction if they were branching out into other scripts.

These first ones are all in Arabic which is a right to left language. That means that when you see one in the address bar it will appear the other way round to usual with http://TLD dot then the lower level parts of the domain name in reverse order but still followed by the / and the directory path as usual, even if in Arabic. Actually this is more logical all round and is how all URLs should have been but it is too late for that now.

[I would like to have shown you examples directly here but my editor and WordPress don’t work well with these scripts—I will need to work on that.] A good place to look is the Wikipedia page towards the bottom.

The implementation in browsers seems to vary and may also be dependent on what the server does as well. The ICANN Arabic test page http://مثال.إختبار/ works well in Firefox (Mac and Win) and Safari (Mac & iPhone)—the whole of the URL in the address bar after the http:// is in Arabic. In IE7 & 8 (Win) the address you see in the top bar is what looks like random Latin characters. For the tests I have done, Safari always gets it right, Firefox sometimes and IE never; I would be interested to hear of other results. An example of one that doesn’t work well in Firefox is the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology http://وزارة-الأتصالات.مصر/ .

The code conversion is called Punycode and uses a rather strange algorithm to convert any Unicode text into ASCII. It is pretty unreadable but has to exist because the DNS system only allows ASCII so Punycode allows domain names in any character set (and any mix) to be uniquely resolved. I don’t know if this is always the case but the ones I have seen all start “xn--“. I imagine that, in time when implementations are sorted out, that this will become transparent to the user.

One worrying security implication of these “foreign” character codes in URLs is that some letters look very similar to Western Latin ones. So if you see a familiar link, to your bank say, it may not be quite what it seems. For example if the “ο” in “www.llο” is actually a Greek Omicron (which it is on this page) the fake address could direct you to a phishing site. It is possible that the behaviour of IE is deliberate to avoid this problem but I somewhat doubt it.

[This post has been revised since I discovered how to insert the Arabic characters. I will write up how it is done later.] [Updated to include IE7 & iPhone]

TapFirefox 3.5 Extensions

2 Jul 2009 06:12 by Rick

Rather quietly, certainly without the fanfare of version 3, Firefox 3.5 was released a couple of days ago.

This is an update to my earlier post about difficult extensions bringing the version numbers and locations up to date. There are still a few that I found that could be simply hacked to enable them to load. I haven’t altered the functionality at all, just changed the maximum version number to 3.* and tested them. They work on my system but you use them at your own risk on yours.

Stop-or-Reload Button 0.2.2 — The page says it works up to Firefox 3.0 (but it doesn’t even do that). The Hacked version still works with Firefox 3.5.

UK Threat Level 0.16Hacked version 0.16.99

British English Dictionary 1.19 — The page says it works with Firefox 3.6 but it doesn’t. The Hacked version 1.19.99 still works with Firefox 3.5. This extension is also suitable for Thunderbird 2.*. It is not entirely clear if this dictionary is needed for Firefox 3+ or if there is one built into the English (British) basic download.

Google Pagerank Status 0.9.8 — Although the web site doesn’t say so, the version there is now 0.9.9 and does support Firefox 3 but not 3.5. Hacked version

Objection 0.3.3 doesn’t support Firefox 3.5 though they are working on a version 0.4. Update 6 Jul 2009: v0.3.4 is now available.

Minimize to Tray (Windows) doesn’t work with Firefox 3 — The Hacked version also works with Thunderbird 2.*.

TapMacOS with Safari 4

17 Jun 2009 11:30 by Rick

This is a companion post to the previous one about Windows without Internet Explorer, which now seems to be possible.

It has been discovered that, once you install Safari 4 on MacOS, you cannot remove it. The only backwards route is to reinstall the operating system from scratch. This is a seriously BAD THING. Microsoft got a lot of stick for embedding IE deep into Windows so it could not be removed (possibly not deliberately, but as a consequence). There are many reasons that you may wish to remove an application—shortage of space is only one. It was possible to remove the Beta versions so why not the real thing? It is possible to remove Safari from Windows.

TapWindows without IE

15 Jun 2009 10:45 by Rick

There is some talk around about Microsoft issuing a special version of Windows 7 for EU countries which doesn’t have Internet Explorer bundled in.

In some senses, this is good news; it exposes the lie that Internet Explorer cannot be removed from Windows because its use is deeply embedded into the operating system. It also means that Windows Update will have to be able to work with alternative browsers (or another mechanism altogether); something it can’t do at the moment.

On the other hand, I don’t see why they need to ship without it at all. Potentially the machines become useless for the average consumer who can’t access the web even to download a browser to access the web! There are suggestions that Microsoft are just posturing.

Apple ships machines with Safari which is a very similar situation so I don’t see why Windows shouldn’t ship with IE—so long as it is possible to remove it if people don’t want it. In practice, I don’t remove Safari, I just don’t use it except for cross browser code checks, and it would be the same with IE; but it would be nice to know that I could. A similar situation should exist for Media Player/iTunes verses competitors.

TapAVG 8.5 Free is here

30 Mar 2009 19:07 by Rick

This caught me a bit by surprise as we use the paid system on most of the machines I manage and, on there, the update is automatic. However, if you use the free version then you will soon be getting update suggestions. There doesn’t seem to be a time limit yet unlike last year’s debacle so there is no panic, but it will need to be done sometime. It looks quite stable and, as I said, has been on the paid version for a little while.

To get and install it, you need to navigate through their site. You don’t want the free trial versions, you need the real free version, the one they call Free Basic Protection. From then on the install is just like version 8 which I documented last year, except there may be a few fewer questions to trip you up. If you have disabled the link scanner in the browser, it doesn’t seem to get reset or maybe it is not used any more, I am not sure.

TapSlow progress

25 Sep 2008 10:56 by Rick

Sorry there haven’t been many posts here recently. I have been working on a new web site for someone else which I will announce when it is launched, probably mid November.

A blank image

  • While doing that I came across a bug which I first saw years ago and thought would be fixed by now. Back when I first started coding web sites, in 1998 when blogs hadn’t been named but this site performed a similar function, we had to allow for all sorts of browser bugs. Good web pages had special coding to allow for the differences between Internet Explorer and Netscape.
  • There was still a problem when IE6 came along and, as there is still a lot of it about, that is what I spent all yesterday evening fixing. The current releases of browsers are generally good enough so that you only need to code for their differences if you are very fussy or are using something obscure.
  • So it came as a surprise that the float & list bullet overlap problem still existed. I have tried to demonstrate it by enclosing the last few paragraphs in a list. The pink image is outside of the list and floated to the left which allows paragraphs to flow around it. This fails in all browsers that I have tried so perhaps it is a specification problem and they are all sticking to the rules. It is surely wrong though.

TapGoogle Chrome – success

4 Sep 2008 12:31 by Rick

Well, I got it up and running and fine it looks too. A bit dodgy around the edges but it is a Google Beta (what the rest of the world calls an Alpha release) and still a development project so we can’t criticise.

What I actually want to say here is much deeper. It must be noted that Google are not designing a new browser. The market is already full of those IE? (pick a number from 5 to 8), Firefox, Safari, Opera… Chrome certainly should be a good browser and proposes some interesting features. But, no, what Google is promoting here is a platform; a base on which they can build their web applications that they have developed over the years and will be continuing in the future—Search, gMail, Calendar, and more. So far they have been dependent on the browsers and those, without exception, have had weaknesses in areas that Google needs to succeed.

For example, we know that occasionally any browser will lock up. The developers try hard to fix them but they still do it. Google are in the business of supplying all your needs via web applications so can’t afford for the browser to crash. They are not saying that Chrome will be immune from this problem but that a lock caused by one site will not crash out the whole browser, just that window.

When you look at it this way, Google are putting themselves right into competition with system suppliers like Microsoft and Apple, but Google are doing it via the web where the others do it on the hardware. What Chrome does is bring the interface under their control. This will allow kiosk like devices (thin clients) where, as far as the user is aware, the operating system is the browser. All services are obtained remotely; the closest we have got to network computing since the idea was mooted.

TapGoogle Chrome – no luck on first try

3 Sep 2008 10:20 by Rick

The talk on the web is about the first completely new browser for over a decade (I think). Designed from a blank sheet it promises to be popular, emphasising speed and reliability over features. Only a Windows version is available at the moment but I found that I couldn’t even download it from my Mac, it must be doing some platform detection. I will try again tonight after firing up my VM.

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