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Archive: October 2005

Selling Out Again

I noticed this morning, after the power finally came back on, that the graphic next to the information on the Carson Workshops home page about the CSS/XHTML workshop I’m doing in a couple of weeks has a “LAST FEW” banner over it, so it looks like those seats are going fast as well.  If you were interested in that one but hadn’t yet gotten around to registering, now might be a good time.

Sellouts

We mentioned two days ago that there were 20 seats left at AEA Philadelphia.  As of an hour ago, they were all gone.  I guess that makes us sellouts.

Our sincere and deepest thanks to everyone who registered, and to everyone who’s written expressing interest in future shows.  We can’t take the wrapper off of our plans just yet, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: we’re planning to announce the date and location of the next event by the middle of November.  Stay tuned to that RSS feed!

Meantime, I’m getting ready for cheesesteaks galore.  Mmmmm… cheesesteaks.

To Hack With It

To follow up on what I said recently, there’s another major reason to remain un-stressed about the impending release of IE7 and the use of CSS hacks.  If you read over the list of things that have been fixed, they read like a who’s who of CSS hacks—and a who’s who of the reasons we use most CSS hacks in the first place.

How is that the ticket to a stress-free existence?  I’ll give you an example.  One IE bug I deal with a lot is the doubled-margin float bug.  So I’ll write something like this:


#main {float: left; width: 30em; margin-left: 150px;}
* html #main {margin-left: 75px;}

I’ve halved the margin value in the “IE/Win only” line, which is the second one; that’s the CSS hack part of the duo.  By taking this approach, the layout is consistent between IE/Win and every other modern browser out there.

Okay, so here comes IE7, which the team says has a fixed CSS parser so the Tan hack (which is what I used) isn’t recognized.  That means IE7 completely skips the second line, the one with the hack.  But IE7 has also fixed the double-margin bug on floats.  So the hack rule is completely ignored by IE7, and it acts like other browsers when reading the first.  It’s like it was Firefox or something.  Meanwhile, any IE6 users out there get a consistent experience thanks to the Tan hack line, which it still recognizes.

So why aren’t I proclaiming that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, as opposed to declaring my intent to stand pat?  Because the promised fixes are just that: promises.  I have no doubt as to the IE team’s deep desire to get these fixes shipped.  They may, however, find themselves overruled by other factors on one or more fixes.  Perhaps a given fix breaks the layout of eBay, or interacts badly with a particular version of Windows.  Simply put, forces beyond their control might lead to a shipping browser that doesn’t fix everything they want to fix.

That’s a big part of why I said I wasn’t going to make any moves until we have a working release in hand.  There’s absolutely no sense in rewriting all our style sheets to remove hacks—at least, there’s no sense right now.  We’d be trying to author against a moving, distant, and phantom target.  That’s a recipe for frustration.

In general, if the planned fixes do come through, then as far as site breakage, the advent of IE7 will be practically a non-event in the standards-oriented design community.  Assuming those  fixes are released, we’ll honestly have next to nothing to do.  Yes, there will be examples here and there of sites doing funky stuff and experiencing problems, as with Slashdot.  Those problem sites will be identified and fixed one way or another—maybe new hacks, maybe conditional comments, maybe reformulations of markup and CSS.  The same basic thing happened when IE6 came out, and I suspect we’ll have less upheaval with IE7 than with IE6—and IE6 was pretty small stuff, site-breakage-wise.

Note that I suspect.  I don’t know.  Nobody can know until the IE team releases a version with the fixes included.  When that happens, then we’ll start figuring out which way to jump.  Or I will, at any rate.  If anyone out there wants to do a little pointless panicking ahead of time, well, be my guest.

IE7 and IE7

As noted on the WaSP site, the IE team is asking developers to clean up their CSS hacks because they’re causing sites to break in IE7 builds.

I have to admit that this call elicited an arid little chuckle from me, because it’s a case of chickens coming home to more than one roost.  There’s the fact that bugs in older versions of IE led us to use hacks, and so they’re making life harder for the IE team.  And then there’s the fact that the use of hacks is an inherently risky and fragile process, so the release of IE7 will make life harder for those who used them.  No smug self-superiority should be read into that second point, by the way: I quite firmly include myself in that crowd.

So—now what?  Personally, I’m not going to make a move until an IE7 beta with new CSS behavior is released.  Why change hacks just to have to hack more?  Put another way, if the ground is going to start shifting, there isn’t much sense in trying to guess how.  Wait until it does, and then adjust your footing.

Still, it might pay to consider ways to cope once the ground shifts.  This leads to something I’ve been pondering for a bit, and now’s a good time to bring it up.  When IE7 (the browser) comes out, it will make IE7 (the script) even more useful than it is now.

Here’s why: all the stuff that IE7 (the script) does, IE7 (the browser) is supposed to do as well.  That is to say, the script can bring IE6 up to par with IE7 the day IE7 is released.  See where I’m headed with this?  Instead of being chained to the fat tail of IE6 installs while being unable to use parser hacks in IE7, we can clear away the hacks and have IE6 and IE7 act basically the same.

They will of course not act exactly the same, and yes, there are drawbacks.  IE6 users will have to download the extra script, and those with JavaScript disabled will have problems.  Not every site will be able to accept those costs—but I’d wager the vast majority will.

In the main, it will be a lot less painful to clear out the hacks with IE7 (the script) available than without it.  A lot.

Oh, and before people start exhorting the use of conditional comments instead, it’s still too soon to know how good an idea that might be.  Doubtless they’ll come into play, but exactly how is completely unpredictable until we know what IE7 actually does.  Perhaps we’ll start using conditionals around the call to IE7 (the script).  Perhaps not.  Time will tell.

As I said before, it’s too soon to know which hacks to clear away or how to rework our code, but thanks to Dean Edwards’ efforts, I’m feeling a distinct lack of stress over the impending shifts.

AEA Happy Hour and a Half

This one’s mostly of interest to my Philly peeps (you know who you are).  On the evening of Monday, 5 December 2005, the fine folks at Pixelworthy will be sponsoring Happy Hour and a Half at The Public House, less than half a mile from the Franklin Institute in downtown Philadelphia.

You say you’re not going to attend AEA?  We’re certainly sorry to hear that, but don’t let it stop you from coming to Happy Hour and a Half:  all are welcome there, attendee or otherwise!  Things get started at 5:30pm.  Hopefully we’ll see you there!

Doth He Protest Too Much?

Having just finished a “makeshift Matrix tour” of Sydney (thanks for all your fine research work, Amber!) on a fine, clear Sunday afternoon, I’ve stopped back at my hotel for a little relaxation and internet time.  Upon surfing through the WE05 tagspaces at Flickr and Technorati, I discovered that a whole lot of people mentioned being amused by having seen me or even posted pictures of me on Thursday morning during the mass evacuation, crouched on a sidewalk with my laptop open and balanced atop my briefcase.  As one person put it, I was “…crouching outside the venue with his laptop out on his knees trying to get on Wifi!”

Okay, folks, let me clear this up right now: I was not looking for wifi.  I was actually trying to help Kaz by looking for a file I hoped was on my hard drive.  It wasn’t, sadly, so we’ll have to swap e-mail later on to get some things straightened out.

That’s not to say I didn’t check for wifi while I had the computer open, of course.

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