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Archive: 27 June 2005

Hacking Weather Widget Hacking

John Gruber just posted a great article on how to take the Weather Dashboard widget in Tiger and hack it to add a “last updated” time.  It’s not only useful, but it’s also a wonderful introduction to the simplicity of widgets.  If you can hack on XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript—as I expect most visitors to this site can—then you can alter or create a Dashboard widget.

However, there was one thing I didn’t like about John’s hack: he converted the 24-hour time already stored by the widget into 12-hour AM/PM time.  I prefer 24-hour time, as do most people outside the United States (which I am not, but never mind that now), and sticking to 24-hour time makes the script addition even simpler.  So here’s my quick modification of John’s JavaScript to result in a time like “1450″ instead of “2:50 pm” or “0307″ instead of “3:07 am”.

// Format the time of the last data refresh
var h = object.time.hour;
var m = object.time.minute;
if (h < 10) {
   h = '0' + h;
}
if (m < 10) {
   m = '0' + m;
}
document.getElementById('updatetime').innerText =
   h + m;

Other than that, do everything just like John says to do.  Share and enjoy!

The Pooh Progression

On Friday, the voice of Tigger died.  Then on Saturday, the voice of Piglet died.

What I want to know is whether Disney security protecting the people who provide the voices of Winnie-The-Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, Gopher, Kanga, Roo, and the rest—or is Disney security, or possibly rogue elements within it, actually behind it all?

Dark times in the Hundred Acre Wood… dark times indeed.

Don’t Read; Speak!

With the debut of the WSP‘s ATF, a vigorous conversation has gotten underway.  Joe Clark weighed in with some suggestions, Andy Clarke got some rousing comment action, and more have spoken up.  This follows some recent and widely-cited thoughts from Matt May on WCAG 2.0 (with opposing view from Gez Lemon), and from Andy Clarke regarding accessibility and legislation (which inspired the publication of a different view from Andy Budd, not to mention another from Chris Kaminski).  I’ll join the chorus with some points of my own.  (Apparently, my recent post Liberal vs. Conservative was taken as a contribution to the discussion, which it wasn’t meant to be, although the points raised there are definitely worth considering in this context.)

This past May, I delivered a keynote at the 2nd International Cross-Disciplinary Workshop on Web Accessibility in Tokyo, and one of the major points I made was basically this: “Screen readers are broken as designed, and need to become speaking browsers”.

The problem is that screen readers are just that: they read what’s displayed on the screen for a sighted user.  In other words, they let Internet Explorer render the Web page, scrape the visual result, and read that.  I will acknowledge that in the tables-and-spacers era of design, this made a certain amount of sense.  That era is ending; in an important sense, it’s already over and we’re just cleaning up the mess it left.  Which is not to say that table markup is never and should not presently be used for layout purposes, nor is this to say that such markup should be used.  Okay?

What I’m saying is that screen readers need to become speaking browsers: they need to ignore how the page is visually displayed, and read the content.  Use semantic markup when it exists, and otherwise ignore the markup in favor of the actual words, whether it’s plain text or alt text.  Go from the beginning of the document to the end of the document, and ignore the CSS—at least that CSS which is meant for visual media, which these days is pretty much all of it.

You might wonder how a speaking browser should deal with a table-driven site, of which there are still quite a few, he said with some understatement.  One distinct possibility is to do what I just said: ignore the non-semantic markup and read the content.  I can accept that might fail in many cases, so I’ll present a fallback: DOCTYPE switching.  If a document has a DOCTYPE that would put a visual browser into standards mode, then be a speaking browser.  If not, then be a screen reader.

DOCTYPE switching has been, despite a few hiccups, incredibly successful in helping designers move toward standards, and allowing browsers to permit standards-based design without sacrificing every page that’s come before.  The same, or at least a very similar, mechanism could help audible-Web tools.

The WaSP has done great things in their efforts to show vendors why Web design tools should produce standards-oriented markup and CSS.  I sincerely hope they can produce similar results with audible-Web vendors.

Scientificologically Speaking

And I know that– psychiatry is– is a pseudo science.
— Tom Cruise

Considering that deeply informed opinion was delivered by an adherent to a pseudo religion, I think that we as a species need to take it very seriously indeed.

But I still want to see his new star vehicle.

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