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Archive: September 2002

Say, That Is a Good Question

In the context of a heated debate over the prospect of going to war with Iraq and the politics surrounding that potential action, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (Rep. – Mississippi) has posed the question, “Who is the enemy here, the president of the United States or Saddam Hussein?”

It’s an excellent question, but geez, if he has to ask, where does that leave the rest of us?

KPMG Revisited

A point of followup on the KPMG fix: It turns out that the fix works almost completely in Opera 6/Win, even when it identifies itself as Opera (as my copy does).  The little yellow-box navbar thing zips along quite speedily, but the drop-downs for “Search,” “Contact Us,” and “Country Selector” can be really slow, while other times very zippy.  Also, one of the “close dropdown” buttons doesn’t work.  I don’t know why, but I suspect these are easy to fix.

Here’s the kicker: I didn’t do any Opera testing until this afternoon.  As I carried out my fixes, I didn’t make one single coding change with Opera in mind, and yet the page is 95% fixed for that browser.  That’s the whole point of using standards—you can be almost completely browser agnostic.  The other 5% that doesn’t work in Opera is probably due to either a DOM bug in Opera—no browser is perfect—or (more likely) my fumbling attempts to get the code based on the W3C DOM wasn’t a complete job, and I left some non-standards stuff in there.

Will it work in Konqueror?  In OmniWeb?  I don’t know, but if they support the correct W3C standards, then the answer is “yes.”  It’s the same answer for any browser that supports Web standards.

I’d also like to reiterate for those of you planning to dig into the source of the fix that it’s not an example of completely  standards compliant design.  It’s merely an example of how one person, with a modicum of effort, was able to take an outdated design method and hack in some semblance of standards support in order to take a broken site and make it work in multiple browsers.  It isn’t perfect, but maybe it’s a start.  Share and enjoy.

It’s Like KPMG.com, Except It Works

In the course of about two and a half hours yesterday afternoon, I hacked together a fixed version of KPMG.com.  It works consistently in Gecko-based browsers and Internet Explorer for both Macintosh and Windows (at least in IE5.5/Win, which is what I have).  This despite the fact that my version does no browser sniffing at all: the same scripts are handed to whatever browser comes to visit.  I would have posted all this yesterday, except KPMG’s Web site (from which I pull all the images) went offline yesterday afternoon, just as I uploaded my fixed version.  Weird.

My fix is not, I should point out, a full makeover into total standards-compliant code and markup.  I left the poorly structured HTML more or less alone, save for the minimal changes I had to make to get the page cross-browser savvy, like converting name attributes to id attributes.  Similarly, I touched only those pieces of the Javascript that needed to be changed.  And I didn’t try to make the DHTML effects more efficient, or speed them up for Gecko, whose dynamic performance still lags behind Explorer.  Thus in Gecko-based browsers the effects will seem sluggish.  Nevertheless, they do work and the page does lay out correctly in the Explorer and Gecko families, which is a heck of a lot more than we can say for the actual site.  I don’t know about other browsers because, in all honesty, I was only willing to sink so much time into a non-paying project.

As I say, this took me about 150 minutes to accomplish, and it would have been less if I hadn’t had to research DOM-compliant event handling (thank to kirun for hooking me up with the answer!).  Remember, I’m a CSS guru, not a DOM and Javascript expert, so it took me longer to figure everything out.  A full makeover to a no-font, minimal-table, optimized, and fully DOM-based script version would have taken a couple of days, most likely.  Add another day to make the way the page is put together rational, since right now the way the script routines fit together is a little frightening.  And there are other problems with the site, like serving CSS files with the MIME type application/x-pointplus, but those seem like incidentals.  Correction: kpmg.com’s CSS files are in fact served up as text/css; it’s kpmg.ca‘s CSS files that are the wrong MIME type.  My apologies to the server adminsitrator(s) at kpmg.com for my incorrect assertion.

In total, a complete makeover lasting three days would still be—even at top-drawer consultancy rates—around US$6000.  Compared to what the site probably cost to develop badly, that’s an amazing bargain.  If even one customer using, oh, let’s say AOL for OS X, was able to browse the site and decided to sign a contract with KPMG, the work would more than pay for itself.

Oh, and I almost forgot: KPMG.com has been broken for well over a year now, as detailed in Bugzilla entry 83846.  We know from that entry that KPMG got e-mail about the problem on 10 July 2001.

With any luck, they’ll take the work I’ve done and use it, seeing how as I’ve written them and offered it at no charge.  Feel free to add your own voice to the process; you could even use the contact form on the fixed version, and if you’re using a Gecko browser, you’ll have to since the actual KPMG site is, you know, broken in your browser.  If they’re afraid of what it might do in Explorer, they could still use their server-side sniffing to give any Gecko agent the fixed version (DevEdge has a good article on Gecko detection).  Of course, I think they should just offer up a standards-based site as the default, but hey, I’m only one guy.  No doubt a large corporation that couldn’t fix its own site problems knows far better than I do.  Hmmm… was that too bitter?

KPMG.com Fall Down, Go Boom

Life is so damned ironic sometimes I have to pause in wonder.  While taking a break from doing technical review on a book exhorting standards-based site design, I spotted on Zeldman (and he spotted it at Supafamous) a note that KPMG‘s Web site (as well as its Canadian counterpart) completely shatters in Mozilla, Netscape 6+, and basically any other non-IE browser.  (Unless it’s Opera, in which case the Canada site doesn’t even let you in at all.)

Why does this happen?  Bad browser sniffing.  Somewhere on KPMG’s server(s), a script looks at the user agent string of the browser asking for a page.  For Gecko-based browsers like Mozilla et.al., this script decides that it’s dealing with Netscape 4.x, and so hands over a script that’s tuned for said browsers.  An tiny little excerpt:

if (tar == 'A') {
  document.layers['search_form'].document.forms['searchFormA'].submit();
} else {
  document.layers['search_nav'].document.forms['searchFormB'].submit();	
}

There’s plenty of other broken stuff, like dynamically writing out layer elements and setting the visibility of said layers to hide, instead of the correct value, hidden.

This is a perfect example of why browser sniffing is nearly always a terrible idea: failure is never more than an unrecognized (or misidentified) browser away.  I’ve taken a look at the page in Explorer, and I’m pretty sure the page can be rendered the way they want it in Gecko-based browsers.  The question is this: should I invest the personal time and energy to offer them, for free, what Razorfish probably charged them a very large sum of money to not deliver?

In the end, thanks to my annoyingly ingrained sense of community good, I probably will.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  In the meantime, I have to get back to that technical review.

Redesigns and Rebounding Praise

It turns out that my praise for Scott‘s recent redesign was unintentionally self-serving: he’s said that some of ideas were inspired by this page.  In the interests of credit being given where it’s due, I should point out that the idea of making h2 elements inline was not taken from this site.  The dates here do use that trick, but they’ve only done so since Sunday.  Scott came up with that himself.  I set up the inline-heading trick for this site last week and pushed it this past weekend, coincidentally the same day Scott changed his design.

Speaking of redesigns, CNN has changed their site design.  It’s… interesting.  Kind of K10K.  Needlessly overwhelming, in my opinion, but then I thought the last redesign was a mistake and then got used to it very quickly.  I’ll probably get used to this one too.

There are even more interesting redesigns looming on the horizon, however.  I wish I could talk about them here, but I can’t yet.  Soon, very soon…

Scott, Spam, and Severe Drift

A very nice redesign has appeared over at scottandrew.com.  Scott didn’t mention anything about it when we had lunch last Wednesday, so I’ll have to berate him for that later.  I’m always envious of people who come up with beautiful, coherent Web designs in the XHTML+CSS space, and Scott’s definitely joined that list.  My one potential quibble is the order of his source, with the page content coming after the entire sidebar instead of before, but since this site does the same thing I don’t suppose I should complain too much.

Today I got what might be my very first anti-porn spam, from “Fathers Against Porn,” and I got it twice.  I thought for a moment about going to download some porn in protest, but decided maybe I’d be better off just deleting both messages with a muttered curse at spamming morality cops and calling it even.

Today I also spotted one of the most severe cases of topic drift I’ve ever seen.  The subject line in question: “Redirection of the root folder and children (was Re: 9/11 Moment of Silence?)”  Wow.

Measuring a Year

Exactly one year ago, I posted an entry with exactly two words: “My God.”

I was then, as I am today, over 2100 miles from home, sitting in a building on the Netscape campus.  The distance has its time effects as well, of course.  When Kat and I were awakened that morning, the towers were already down.  We were very lucky, really, back on that horrible day—we were together even though far from home, and everyone we knew who could have perished in New York did not.

In the intervening 365 days, we have learned that someone very close to us is terminally ill, that others are still suffering from what they saw a year ago, met new friends and heard from old ones, traveled more than we probably should have, worried about the government, been denied the chance to know someone who would have been everything to us, made agonizing choices, been through job changes and home repair, tried to understand and respect each other, and held each other as we tried to shut out the world for a few minutes of grief or joy at a time.

Life continues to move onward, and as much as we would sometimes like to stop, we keep moving with it.

Greek Gaming Gaffe

I’m sure I’ll be one of about six hundred thousand people making this particular observation, but here we go anyway: electronic games are now illegal in Greece.  Have been ever since the end of July, in fact.  If I show up in Greece with my cell phone, which has a few games built in and which I can’t remove, I could face a year of jail time and up to a 75,000 euro fine.  I suppose the fact that people can be just as deeply stupid the world over as here in America should be in some way comforting, but instead I find myself deeply frightened.

September 2002
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