Skip to main content

Not for nothing, but I've had my share of bad reviews in my professional career. Some I've taken well, and some I've taken... poorly. Some were my fault and others honestly weren't. There isn't a manager on Earth who hasn't had to give a bad review to somebody, sometime. It's always awkward and it's never fun and in the end you're left with a low score on a piece of paper and a sinking feeling in your chest.

And yet, if you rounded up all the managers in the world and shot them... no wait, that's not where I was going with this. If you rounded up all the managers in the world and got them drunk -- yes, I think that would work -- you got them drunk and you asked them one question, they'd all tell you the same thing: the score that they give and you get doesn't mean a damn thing. Oh, you'll fixate on the score, since it means no salary bump or no bonus or no promotion or -- jackpot! -- all three at the same time, but it truly, truly, truly doesn't mean a damn thing. The only thing that truly matters is the conversation that follows.

And it is in this context that I am somewhat embarrassed on behalf of the Mozilla Corporation. They certainly didn't ask for my opinion or my guilt-by-proxy, but they apparently haven't noticed that they ought to be embarrassed, so by God somebody needs to step up. I refer, of course, to the Acid 3 test cooked up by the inimitable Ian Hickson and his motley crew of meddling minions. The test gives a numerical score that purports to rank a browser's compatibility with a potpourri of well-established web standards. Of course any such test is guaranteed to be unfair to somebody, but this one was especially unfair to everybody since the makers intentionally sought out bugs in major browsers to highlight their incompatibilities.

That, by itself, is not the story. First there was the Acid test, then there was the Acid 2 test, and there will no doubt be an Acid 4 test and so on. The fact that the testmakers had to work so damn hard to find compatibility bugs to highlight speaks volumes by itself, but that is not the story either. The story is that two browser vendors -- Opera and Apple -- somehow got into a bit of a race over who could reach a perfect score first. This, on top of their already insane release schedules (Safari 3.1, Opera 9.5), shocked and awed the web standards community, who for the first time in recent memory were put in the enviable position of arguing about which browser had increased its standards compliance the most and the fastest.

The funny thing is, I don't even know who won. There were some inconsistencies about which builds passed what, and then they found some last-minute bugs in the tests themselves, and despite minute-by-minute updates on programming.reddit.com, I don't really know or care who "won" the race. But I'll tell you one thing: it sure as hell wasn't Mozilla, because they were too busy complaining that the tests were just designed to highlight bugs (duh)... and they didn't see any real worth in the feature tests (like downloadable web fonts, which is a five-digit Bugzilla bug that has been open since 2001)... and they felt they should get partial credit for still being ahead of Internet Explorer (new working slogan: "Firefox: We're Not Dead Last")... and anyway, they're really busy right now -- unlike the fine young minds at Apple and Opera, who, unbeknownst to their managers, have outsourced all their browser development to summer interns and are spending their newfound free time reenacting Roman toga parties. And oh, by the way, didn't you hear that the other guys cheated? Also, their toga parties are, like, totally inaccurate when viewed from a psycho-historical perspective.

C'mon, guys. It's not the score that matters, it's the followup. It's the conversation you have, the promises you make, the progress you show the next day and the day after that and the day after that. And bitching about an openly developed test suite whose ultimate goal was just to get people excited about web standards for a few minutes -- man, you should all be embarrassed with yourselves. But you're not, so here I am stepping up, publicly being embarrassed on your behalf. No need to thank me.

Update: once again, I explain myself better the next morning.

§

[MSN in Swedish Chef]

Opera releases "Bork edition.

Two weeks ago it was revealed that Microsoft's MSN portal targeted Opera users, by purposely provided them with a broken page. As a reply to MSN's treatment of its users, Opera Software today released a very special Bork edition of its Opera 7 for Windows browser. The Bork edition behaves differently on one Web site: MSN. Users accessing the MSN site will see the page transformed into the language of the famous Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show: Bork, Bork, Bork!

Download Opera 7.02 Bork edition.

For those enterprising site authors wishing to do similar transformations on their own site, read chapter 4 of Dive Into Python (dialect.py does the actual work) and sniff for this User-Agent string:

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.1) Opera 7.02 Bork-edition [en]

§

§

The Owen Hack hides CSS from Opera 5 and 6, but not Opera 7 (released today). However, my newly invented *7 hack hides CSS from Opera 5, 6, and 7 on Windows, and Opera 6 on OS X.

Note that I have nothing against Opera 7; it seems quite nice, and most of the bugs from the public beta seem to have been shaken out. I have no idea if there are any major CSS rendering bugs which would even require a hiding hack. It seems to handle all of the advanced demos in css/edge, which is impressive (and probably intentional).

One CSS bug which afflicted previous versions of Opera was the lack of simultaneous vertical and horizontal centering of background images (using background-position: center center). This is now fixed in Opera 7, which means that Oliver is now centered properly.

§

Leech add-on for Mozilla. If you have ever wanted a quick way to download all the files (images, video clips, zip archives, etc.) from a single page, then the leech add-on is for you. Who says open source can't innovate?

Also, Mozilla 1.2 beta is out, and it runs much faster than previous builds on Mac OS X 10.2, which itself is much faster than running Mozilla on previous versions of Mac OS X. (I think I followed that.) Anyway, Mozilla 1.2 beta (on all platforms) features Type-Ahead Find. You can start typing link text and Mozilla will find a link that matches and put focus on it; then you can hit ENTER to follow the link or F3 to jump to the next match. Excellent for fast typists who hate using the mouse, or people who have difficulty using a mouse.

Purists will note that incremental search was not invented by the open source Mozilla hackers, or even by Netscape Corporation engineers. (They were the first to adapt the idea to link navigation in a browser though. And yes, I've used Opera 6's find-in-page, and it's different. Both features are innovative, but different.) Meanwhile, GNU/Emacs has had incremental search for decades. Everything old is new again.

§