Some Things Should Change – Why IE6 is holding the internet back.

We ate last night in China-Town in London in The New World, a restaurant that I first went to over 20 years ago. To be honest it hadn’t really changed at all. In fact I ‘m not certain it had even been decorated but that was what I wanted, the food was enjoyable and the service friendly.

When I was first there I was a student. At college we used very early Apple Macs in the labs and the adventurous were word processing their work. There were no mobile phones, no internet, and no email. The Photographer’s Gallery (where I am now) was near Leicester Square, whereas it is now just off Oxford Street.

Walking round London some things change a lot but others seem not to at all. Earlier I had a double expresso in The Bar Italia in Soho. The Gaggia machine was ‘old school’, hand pulled, refreshingly quiet whilst still making exceptional coffee. On the large screen TV, Murray was getting through to the semi-finals in the Australian Open much to the enjoyment of the Italian and Eastern European staff. Take the screen out and the setting would have been difficult to date, maybe the clothes would give the game away.

Some things change, some things stay the same, some things should change, but stay the same.

We Are The People Who Try

I am just coming out of a intense week or so of website building. The customer wanted something a bit different, saw the way the Apple presents previews of images and said I want that. I now know how to make that happen on a website. As Fahti the swimmer says, “we are the people who try”. I can’t think of a period of my life when I have done so much learning, independent learning, the ultimate aim of the education system. The information is out there, accessible (subject to cautious analysing and filtration of course). There is a huge generosity of spirit too, with people wanting to share ideas and knowledge. This is a good thing (I think) but very different to twenty years ago.

The other day I spoke to someone who only recently learnt how to cut and paste on her computer. This may seem strange but she has always used Macs where there is a long history of drag and drop. She has always just pulled what she wanted from one document and dragged it straight on to another. Macs have always had a very visual appeal, there is a strong visual metaphor and I suspect that for this reason they appeal to very different people. I am always surprised when I hear people complain about how difficult macs are to get to grips with, for me at least they seem very intuitive. However when I attended a night class that used the Windows platform I felt like a complete and utter numpty. Whatever though the Mac Vs PC seems to get to peoples’ core.

In my house now I regularly have a number of computers, currently a Mac G3(BW) desktop, a G3 Pismo PowerBook, a G4(DA), a G4 MacMini (my FTP server) and a Unibody MacBook Pro. This tally sometimes swells when two other current MacBooks come to visit as well as my son’s Toshiba PC. Apart from the G3 they all work, the only reason the G3 doesn’t is because I sold the processor. Oh there is one more, maybe the most important, I have an old Dell laptop, with a German keyboard.

So they all work, the ten year old Pismo is used by the children, it’s rather slow now but hey? But what of the Dell, what’s that all about?

Well, I use it to test websites (to destruction). You see, it is old and slow, but uses the much loathed IE6 browser. IE6 is still used by around 10% of users but unfortunately it is no longer compliant with current web standards. This means that in order to get a website to work on this browser designers will have to design in a number of hacks and workarounds. This invariably means that a compromise has to be made either to the visual appeal or the functionality and yes I realise that these two should be inherently linked. So, when it is testing time, yes it is lovely to see how good the site looks on the Mac but unfortunately much as I love them the truth is that Safari accounts for 3.4% of the (browser) market, and as such the hopeless old IE6 with all of its failings will be the window that three times more people will use.

The good news is that 46% of people will use Firefox which is a pretty good browser. Increasingly design companies are dropping support for non-complient browsers. You can get a WordPress plugin to display a large gaudy banner if the viewer is using IE6. Somewhat devilishly this plugin can be set to crash IE6 although I haven’t felt the need to be so annoying on this site.

Some grow old gracefully and get a bit slower with age whereas others get really a little too grumpy for words.

A couple of days after this post the BBC reported that “Google has begun to phase out support for Internet Explorer 6, the browser identified as the weak link in a cyber attack on the search engine.” (more)

Vive la différence – Design needs to appeal to human emotions

SAAB 900 T16s

SAAB 900 T16s

Recently, on Top Gear, James May said that he quite liked SAABs, in part because he felt that people who drove them were ‘interesting’. This left me with a slight smug glow, I have had a few SAABs, four actually and drive one now. I’ve also had three Volvos, three Moto Guzzis, and three BMW K Series motorbikes. For those with the slightest interest in this a picture will be developing, of brand loyalty, perhaps an interest in design maybe safety too. For others I will be coming across as a ‘bit of a yawner’.

Having recently spent some time looking for a new car with my partner, I am sad to say that anyone buying a current SAAB is beyond interesting (by some degree) and well into the new category called ‘Of Clinical Interest’. It was bad enough when SAABs started wearing Dame Edna Everage glasses, but who ever thought that re-branding them as little Cadillacs was a good idea? Oh yes General Motors did. At the time of writing SAAB’s future is tenuous to say the least.

Prototype NG 900 SAAB

Prototype NG 900 SAAB

Of course I realise that my car shares the underpinnings of an old Vauxhall Cavalier but despite what people say the GM 900s were actually rather good and for someone like me they offer a lot of car for not much money. It has been and continues to be a good car although it uses far too much fuel. At the time when I bought it though it was one of a handful of affordable cars that offered speed, space and three proper seat-belts in the back.

I see no great reason to sell the car although I wish it would use less fuel. It does most of what I need and, as Mr May’s colleague Mr Clarkson once accurately predicted, as a SAAB driver I have a little too much linen in my wardrobe. My son often comments on how the car seems right for me. I am interested to know the bigger picture with regards to the Scrapage Scheme, does it make environmental sense to scrap a perfectly viable car?



Anyway, I like cars, particularly older ones, but I don’t often look round garages until recently since K has been looking for a new one.

Initially she had wondered about a BMW Z3, we went to the local BM dealer but they didn’t have any. I went into the showroom and kicked the rear tire, the salesman got the joke, I explained it to K later. We looked at the One Series which ticked many boxes. However to my eyes it looked like it had already been in an accident, as Clarkson said;

The BMW, however, is just plain ugly. It may have the double headlamps and the kidney grille and the Hofmeister kink, but viewed as a whole it looks like a van….And it’s why I’m choosing the words for my conclusion with even more care than usual. So here goes. The 1-series is crap

The simple truth is that there isn’t much out there to excite, cars seem to be designed for people who watch X Factor a little too much. Yes we did venture into the local Aston dealership (to look at an A3) and yes I would, but I can’t so I won’t.
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Ain’t Free WiFi Great?

Cappuccino, another thing that wouldn’t pass the Grandpa test; tea certainly, coffee if you were a bit racy, but cappuccino no way. There are three good cappuccinos to he had in Exeter, Lutzy’s (Portuguese not Italian), Espresso. The Boston Tea Party and the latter is where I am, surrounded by people, a surprising number of whom are working, many on WiFi enabled laptops.

Across the way is a man who I spoke with the other day when we shared a table, he had a number of books about adult learning and psychology and said that he enjoyed working amongst people.

Many years ago when people first started talking about the ‘computer revolution’ there was a suggestion that everyone would work from home and would not need to leave the house. Well, that hasn’t quite happened but, for those of us who can work in such a way, can I suggest that whilst this has it’s benefits frequently it sucks. People need people, not all he time but people need people.
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On Macs

The Grandpa Test is one that is often of use, what would Grandpa make of it?. I remember my parents’ frustration having given my grandparents a Moulinex mixer that sat for ever in its cover. So as we sit typing into our macs I wonder what Grandpa would have said, two World Wars and all.

A pleasant chat with the local Community Fake Police Support Officer Lady (stern but fair), this evening. My son has been digging a BMX track out of the banking in the car park of the local village hall. He stands accused of removing mud from the hall and taking it in a wheelbarrow down the lane to the local cricket pitch, where there is another BMX creation. He was struggling to hide his disdain for the suggestion that he would be so stupid as to transport wheelbarrow loads of mud 400 meters or so for the fun of it. Ah, the fun of the small village.

Granny (a short, one legged Scot) made great steamed dumplings though. I am not aware that they got any better or worse for the lack of intervention of the Moulinex. Scraping the mixing bowl, peeling the muslin, like a big haggis but fun.