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Archive for August, 2005

Condolences to Internet Explorer

Firefox in the dock
Internet Explorer remains aside for the time being

For quite some time I have been kind to Internet Explorer (IE) despite its obnoxious limitations. Those who follow this blog may have noticed that its layout is IE-friendly. It comes with a cost though, in terms of flexibility in particular.

One of the prominent IE deficiencies, which constantly puts me aback, is its lack of support for high-depth colour blending — something for which I have great affinity. Earlier this week I decided to give up on Internet Explorer visual compatibility as far as my Ph.D. progress reports are concerned. I did likewise when assembling the talk that I prepare for an audience of surgeons at the Royal Eye Hospital. I went along with what should work in any modern browser like Mozilla, Opera, Firefox and Safari, to name just the major ones. I incorporated 32-bit PNG transparencies in Web pages — or put differently — I have included 32-bit alpha blending effects in my reports. I used to reluctantly stick to JPEG‘s, but I wanted some nicer effects that resemble shadows.

If you are curious, the result is in my latest progress report 1. See the slides which contain figures to get an example of blending with the background 2. I am assuming that they will appear with white background in Internet Explorer, which is not aesthetic and seems like a complete misfit. All I can say is that Internet Explorer 7 will render this properly, having surveyed some and reviews on the topic. Either way, my supervisor and I use Firefox. I even urge him to use it more often and sometimes set it as his default browser (it will be our little secret).

To those anticipating the arrival of Internet Explorer 7, it is worth mentioning that, on the face of it, it will still be adverse to Web standards. As an intersting statistical side note, Firefox and IE usage is more or less in state of equality on this domain as a whole.

1 The report is yet to be delivered at 11 this morning

2 There is a nice story behind the background image. It depicts the Maths Tower which is being demolished the moment. The reports might commemorate its existence.

Reasons to Use Linux

Penguins

A humorous article, which was sarcastically called “Five Reasons NOT to Use Linux” in fact talks about why Linux is better than Windows.

In short, here are the arguments listed by the article’s author:

  • The Windows Registry has deficiencies
  • Windows is hard to install due to patching, AV, etc.
  • Windows lacks built-in applications
  • Windows is not secure
  • Windows is more expensive

Is you are not convinced about any of the above, have a look at the essay. It provides compelling arguments and includes references to support them.

iPod to Become Phone?

iPod head
Sounds like a royal phone

FOR a while I have been reading about a big announcement, which is bound to be delivered by Apple’s founder and CEO, Steve Job. It now seems as if the iPod will be combined with a mobile phone, but let us wait and see.

Related local items:

Black Hat SEO

Cowboy hat
Blackhat SEO’s: under the illusion that they are talented gunslingers, shooting from the hip

I have recently become aware of highly dirty practices, which sometimes get used by malovalent SEO‘s. ‘Googleating’ is one of the most vile SEO methods, perhaps only second to spam. I have been told about someone who developed a habit of conquering deleted blogs immediately once they had been freed. Then, it was promptly possible to ‘fuel’ his own adverts-filled public content sites, making use of merit (mainly in the form of Google PageRank), which got transferred owing to links in these recently-acquired blogs.

Further on the issue of dodgy practices, in order to compensate for banishment from search engines, that same person bought multiple domains; thus, he avoided putting all eggs in one basket.

How did I come to find this out? There is an exceptional user in a benevolent SEO forum that I participate in. He uses blackhat techniques and gives the group a bad reputation that may sooner or later draw attention from search engines, which in turn can inflict collective punishments on group participants. If justice pervails, bad practices will be choked and genuine sites will receive more referral traffic from search engines. The Internet is no place for mirrored public content, neither it is for link spam.

Microsoft-funded Benchmarks

Bill Gates
Bill Gates arrested in his younger days (photo in public domain)

MICROSOFT have recently raved about their Get the facts campaign [rel="nofollow"ed]. This vigorous campaign aims to convince the public that Windows Web servers outperform Linux equivalents. The study upon which this is based is Microsoft-funded, who often wave big bucks at the face of academic research groups, as well as employ them. Microsoft-funded researchers have been caught red-handed in the past. They published fraudulent or questionable results when surveying security among Windows, Mac and Linux. Initially, little did they bother to mention who funded the research, but eventually, all conclusions were binned in a sector-wide embargo due to these biassed reports.

Sadly, for any impartial review, there must be funds allocated, which are often provided in the form of greedy commercial backings. Likewise, when some results are available, money can be used to run a propaganda. The extent of such propaganda is related to the size of the bank account — something that Linux, for example, is adverse to.

Quite recently, Open Source bodies refused to fall for industrial benchmark temptation and be victims to Microsoft’s marketing tricks that are constantly being pulled. The latest such manipulative situation is a scenario involving an offer from Microsoft to fund 50% of a research comparing enterprise Linux performance to that of Windows.

Microsoft’s open-source point man Martin Taylor has expressed interest to
jointly develop a study on deploying Windows versus Linux with the Open
Source Development Lab (OSDL).

“As far as working with Microsoft on a study, Microsoft could probably find
one negative line on Linux in a 100-page research report that it would
spend $10 million marketing while ignoring the other 99 pages
,” he (OSDL
CEO) said in his e-mail to ZDNet Asia.

Firefox for Web Design

The Web Developer extension in action

The Web Developer extension in action (click to enlarge)

IT is upsetting to discover that a decent proportion of all Web designers still test and debug pages using Internet Explorer. Mozilla Firefox has an entire range of extensions that are so broad as to justify the name “Web design suites“. I have become aware of a page which contains some of the top Firefox extensions for Web developers. There are good explanations and some features show-down therein.

Web Developer extension

The Web Developer extension shown as a Firefox toolbar (click to enlarge, see tutorial)

If the above does not provide a sufficiently compelling reason to design under Firefox, IE in fact conflicts with Web standards. Also, you might wish to have a look at the American Copyright Office Web site. It includes IE-only features due to designers who are narrow-minded, which illustrates the dangers of sticking to a browser which is vendor-centric. You can file a complaint about this governmental site’s inter-compatibility issues using their on-line feedback form.

The Perfect Editor

Quanta Plus

Quanta Plus – a Web development editor (click to enlarge)

Two of the most common arguments/wars in UseNet, as well as various forums, are over Linux distributions and favourite text editors, which are very fundamental tools, particularly in development.

There is no ideal text editor. Different editors suit different purposes and a different editor should be used depending the user’s level of skills. Below, for example, are various editors that I use for numerous distinct yet related tasks:

  • NEdit – for editing C and tables (can make rectangular selections)
  • KWrite – C++ due to colours, smart indentation, etc.
  • KEdit – includes a well-integrated spellchecker
  • Notepad – very light
  • Wordpad- rich formatting
  • BBedit (Mac) – much of the above, yet commercial (i.e. expensive)
  • MATLAB editor – colour syntax highlighting, debugging capabilities (e.g. breakpoints) are integrated into the editors, consistency and cohesiveness with the rest of MATLAB
  • Quanta – Web development in KDE – widgets for markup, code generation for tables, and more (see screenshot at the top)
  • cPanel File Manager – editing on server-side using the browser

The bottom line is that there is no best editor (likewise there is no best Linux distribution). Perhaps this explains why there are endless arguments that end up nowhere. A developer would need to use different editors at different times. I can think of 5 distinct types of text editors that I use at the moment: MATLAB, C/C++, HTML and simple (plain) text. even E-mail and newsgroups clients can be considered editors just being themselves, not to mention textareas and forms in the Web browser.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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