&ot Information Gift: November 2002 Archives

November 28, 2002

Mozilla 1.2 Released

Mozilla 1.2 was released yesterday (Mac|OS X|Win) . This release is mostly an interface tune-up, at least as far as the browser component is concerned, adding Type Ahead Find for link and page text, native form widgets in WinXP, and "image selection visualization" (now you get an annoying rectangle appearing around your images and your text links while tabbing through a page; usable, yes, pretty, no). Java now works again on Mac OS X.2.x, though gifs with transparent backgrounds still print as black on Mac and Linux platforms.

There is one new feature that might interest web developers...

From the Link prefetching FAQ:

"Link prefetching is a browser mechanism, which utilizes browser idle time to download or prefetch documents that the user might visit in the near future. A web page provides a set of prefetching hints to the browser, and after the browser is finished loading the page, it begins silently prefetching specified documents and stores them in its cache. When the user visits one of the prefetched documents, it can be served up quickly out of the browser's cache."
Looks like the Mozilla team has thought this through and covered all their bases. They've delivered a smart mechanism that's easy to implement and shouldn't unduly tax servers or bandwidth, as prefetching only occurs when the browser is doing nothing else and you, the developer, decide what to prefetch.

The most common prefetching "hint" is likely to be in the form of the HTML <link> tag:

<link rel="prefetch" href="/images/big.jpeg">
The FAQ goes on to list <meta> and HTTP Link: header alternatives and give background on how the browser handles prefetching requests and user interaction.


  • For reasons of security and performance, SSL sites and sites using <link> tags with query strings are not prefetched.
  • Until prefetching is standardized (an Internet-draft is in the works) and feature support is picked up by, oh, um, Microsoft, your work in this area will have little impact for general audiences.
  • Developers have used Javascript hacks in the past to prefetch content, but a browser feature-based approach is cleaner and should offer a better and easier to implement experience for the end-user.

    Posted by Lewis Francis at 11:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

    asdg2@December 19

    Colin moock announced on FlashCoders that his second edition to "ActionScript: The Definitive Guide" is finished and due to ship December 19.

    Titled "ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition" and published by O'Reilly, Moock's update covers changes and new functionality introduced in Flash MX to the tune of an additional 400 pages and 250 language references!

    Folks, the first edition was the widely acknowledged "Best of Breed" Flash ActionScript reference, and I keep my dog-eared copy close at hand while coding AS.

    Bottom line: if you are serious about Flash ActionScript, you need to be hooked into the asdg experience.

    Posted by Lewis Francis at 9:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

    November 25, 2002

    Go, PageRacer!

    I've got broadband, you've got broadband, your client probably has broadband, but most people are still viewing your content via pokey dial-up speeds. To understand the end-user experience, you also need to preview your site across a dial-up connection. Or... you can use PageRacer.

    PageRacer is a modem simulator used to help sell a suite of accelerator tools provided by OptiView, of GifWizard fame.

    You key in your url, and a split screen is delivered to you with one pane downloaded at 56K modem speeds and the other pane also downloaded at 56K modem speeds, but accelerated using their NetCelerate product. Obviously, the unaccelerated version is the one you want to imagine your end-user viewing, although if the accelerated pane version is significantly faster, then you might want to check your optimization or look into licensing some of this company's tools.

    I assume the demo is using a bandwidth shaping mechanism like DummyNet or NIST Net, and informal testing shows that it does, indeed, stream in test content at around 4.4Kbps or so.

    All in all an excellent quick-look alternative to a real dial-up for checking your download times and optimization techniques.

    Posted by Lewis Francis at 10:52 PM | Permalink

    November 18, 2002

    Got Gaps?

    Linked off of A List Apart's Better Living though XHTML, is Eric Meyer’s Tables, Images, and Mysterious Gaps, the best explanation I've seen of the image-spacing problem that crops up with early Mozilla and Netscape 6.x browsers. Finding these issues late in the game often means that you'll need to use the most expedient method to fix the problem, which is to strip DTDs from your pages. Ideally, though, we'd find solutions using fine-tuned CSS—this doc outlines various approaches to doing just that.

    Posted by Lewis Francis at 10:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

    November 17, 2002

    XML vs. AOL

    Ran into an interesting compatibility issue this week with XHTML documents and the Classic (pre-OS X) version of Mac AOL 5. Hitting index pages with this combination unexpectedly causes AOL to present your page as a download instead of simply rendering the page.

    It appears that the problem is caused by adding an XML declaration before the XHTML DTD. This just happens to be the default behavior of both BBEdit and Dreamweaver MX, and I would expect newer versions of other commonly used editors to also follow in this behavior. After all, one of the drivers of using XHTML in the first place is to allow for easy interoperability with XML user agents and tools; if you are valid XHTML, then you can also be valid XML with the declaration.

    The fix:
    If Classic Mac AOL users are part of your intended audience, and XML compatibility is not a must-have, then the fix is to simply drop the XML declaration. This will allow your pages to still validate as XHTML and render, but will no longer validate or interoperate with XML tools.

    Note that Classic Mac AOL 5.0 for OS 8.1 - 9.x uses Internet Explorer 4.01 as its browser. I would expect, but have not tested, that the stand-alone version of IE 4.01 would also fail with this scenario. AOL for OS X users are not affected by this problem.

    Posted by Lewis Francis at 5:25 PM | Permalink

    November 14, 2002

    New Flash 6 Player Beta 2

    Last week Macromedia released a second public beta release of a new Flash 6 Player, following the first beta release on October 21. Finally squashed is the long-standing, infamous, evil and vexing bitmap shifting-bug! Woo-hoo! Kudos to the Flash engineering and QA teams!

    The release notes state that in addition to various issues being addressed, the beta installer now attempts to:

    "...configure the browser to add Flash version information to the accept header to the HTTP transaction with the Flash version information to allow server-side Flash Player version detection."
    While I see Accept: application/x-shockwave-flash accept headers in late-model Netscape browsers, I'm not seeing version information as described. With IE browsers I don't see an entry for the accept header at all. Not sure quite what to expect; other developers have also expressed some confusion over this.

    Perhaps beta 3?

    For those of us who track such things, Windows and Macintosh build numbers are now 6,0,60,65, with the Linux version at 6,0,60,67.

    Don't forget that Macromedia is offering prizes for the top two testers who submit the "highest number of good-quality new bugs". Besides helping ensure their companies' and client's product work in the next release of the Flash Player, top testers will choose any one of the following: a copy of Macromedia Studio MX, a Microsoft XBox, or a Sony PlayStation 2.

    Posted by Lewis Francis at 10:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

    November 3, 2002

    Stupid Jaguar Tips

    Jaguar was the codename for Apple's most recent major OS X upgrade, OS X.2. With it came a new feature intended for visually impaired users but also useful for developers who occassionally need to get a closer look at things on-screen.

    The Universal Access preferences allow a Jaguar user to enable keyboard shortcuts that engage display zooming. I'm talking serious to insane amounts of zoom. And Jaguar uses the Quartz rendering and compositing engine to make your on-screen graphics and type smooth all the way down to sub-atomic renderings. Ok, ignore, if you must, the plain usefulness of the feature, this is fun.

    Here's how to enable Universal access' Zoom feature:

    1.) Open your System Preferences and select the Show All view.
    2.) Select Universal Access (from the System category).
    3.) Click on the Turn On Zoom rectangular button.

    Now you can use OPTION-COMMAND-PLUS and OPTION-COMMAND-MINUS to zoom in and out of your display. Once zoom is engaged, you may use your mouse to navigate the zoomed view.

    Zoom options give you the ability to set initial max and min zoom levels, and whether or not to smooth type and graphics as a default. You can always use OPTION-COMMAND-\ in either case to toggle smoothing.

    Posted by Lewis Francis at 1:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)