My fave web / dev news from Mix09

Microsoft has:

  • IE8 final being released at noon today. Hoorah!
    Now if MS would just force-upgrade the IE6 holdouts!
  • SuperPreview for side-by-side (or overlaid!) browser layout testing
    I grabbed SuperPreview the moment it was announced yesterday. Looks great for IE6 & 7, but it didn’t find any of my other installed browsers, or show Safari/Mac like the demo, and I see no way to add those. Hm, maybe they’re still working out kinks…
  • Silverlight 3 beta – big wow for high-performance cross-platform video
    That said, Silverlight is still the “Un-web”.
  • Expression Blend 3 previewSketchflow especially looks awesome for bigger projects
    I’m still not sure I personally can trust a WYSIWYG editor. Frontpage still haunts me.

Google Report a Spam Result

Submitted to

Exact query that shows a problem (copy this from the Google search box):
Technet Plus -vs- Action Pack

Resulting Google page that shows problem (copy the Google URL):

The specific web page or site that is misbehaving: Type(s) of problem (check all that apply):

Type(s) of problem (check all that apply):

Cloaked page

Additional details:
To Firefox or Internet Explorer user-agent strings, shows its registration page.  "View this solution now by starting your 7-day free trial…" at the bottom under Accepted solution.  The real answer content is NOT on the page.

But when I switch my browser’s UA string to Googlebot, it shows the real answer content which was in the Google search results.  This is deceptive to users, dilutes Google’s search relevance, and and violates your Webmaster Guidlines at

NOTE: SOMEtimes DOES show the answer at the bottom, so please test from a variety of IPs and browsers.

Interestingly, it’s no new problem and Google is aware of but ignoring it?  Maybe if more people fill out the form to complain…?

IE6, are you still here?!

It’s August 2008, almost 2 years since Internet Explorer 7 came out.  So why on earth does IE6 still have almost the same market share?

Browser Stats

Fri Feb 1 00:01:02 2008 – Sun Aug 31 23:58:00 2008   213.0 Days

1. MSIE 7.x

15370300 (41%)

2. MSIE 6.x

13493578 (36%)

3. FireFox

6230544 (17%)

4. Safari

1276526 (3%)

5. Opera x.x

306845 (1%)


I was sure the world would be (nearly) free of IE6 a year ago, but adoption has slowed so much that it’s only given 1% to IE7 in the last 7 months.

Microsoft, you’re not pushing hard enough — get that fogey out of here ASAP!


And now back to futzing with transparent PNGs for IE6…


Technorati Tags: Internet Explorer,

New site

Business has been good.  Unfortunately, it has been so busy that the smelly old Slingshot Solutions website stuck around way too long.

When I say smelly, think:

  • IE-only (in 2002, IE was 95%+, and Firefox was still a glimmer)
  • IE6-only — IE7 often crashes (why can browsers still be crashed by web code these days?)
  • Outdated in various ways (6.5yrs)
  • Kinda ugly
  • Over-complicated
  • Wordy — can there be too little horn-tooting?
  • Did I mention IE-only?

So my goals for a new site were focused on simplicity and compatibility.  I started designing building it when I started back to Slingshot Solutions full-time, and have been alternating between false starts, second-guessing, and neglect ever since.

It’s finally done now, though.  Please meet the slim and trim new “ 2.0“:
slingfive 2.0  -sm.jpg

It works on any modern browser, plus IE6 (kicking and screaming).  Some other geeky goodness:

  • It’s Javascript-heavy, but it’s all non-obtrusive and progressively-enhanced, so it still works with Javascript disabled.
  • JQuery greatly helped simplify the visuals by hiding less important stuff until it’s needed.  Rather than a second page just for a contact form, Contact Us is just a popup.  Similarly, I built a hide/show toggle for less-important content details.
  • FONTS!  Every web designer hates the fact that you have to choose fonts based on lowest-common denominators (not everyone has your font on their system).  Alternatively, you can use images or Flash to get around this (carefully!).  I certainly wanted automatic as possible, so I tried SIFR (implementation stinks), then settled on DotIR.  Unfortunately v3 only outputs non-transparent GIFs, but with the wonders of open source, I’ve improved it to output anti-aliased transparent PNGs (including IE6 compatibility), and made it medium-trust compatible (for web hosts).  Hopefully my changes will reach the next version.

Weaknesses / to-do:

  • Still way too wordy, this time with TLAs (“acronymy”?).
  • I pulled over my old code section for developers.  I’ve tested none of it though, and will surely need to fix several server-side settings.
  • The layout wrecks at less than 1024×768.  Stats say that covers 90% of the world, but that’s hollow comfort.

For now I’m just happy it’s out and not killing anyone.  Hurrah!

Hooray, Safari is upgrading to IE4!

Dean pointed out that Apple’s Webkit team is finally adding Internet Explorer’s CSS Visual Filters (invented back in 1998 with Internet Explorer 4), and are calling it CSS Masks in Safari.

The sad news is that nobody’s giving the IE team due credit.  The good news is that that power is now there.

So hooray Safari for ignoring web standards!  Yes, I mean that.  I’ll take a good de-facto standard over nothing any day (anyone remember when the W3C actually did stuff?)  Step up to the plate, Opera, Mozilla, and Konqueror!

While you’re at it, don’t forget to grab IE’s other great dev features, too!  If we get DHTML Behaviors, Databinding, CSS Expressions, Conditional Comments, and Deferred Scripts, that will cover my 2005 Dev Wishlist for Other Browsers.
That done, MS-haters could complain less about proprietary/innovation and the the web could keep moving forward.  To be clear, I’m saying the effort to complain about IE’s extras would be better spent copying them in other browsers, helping web developers and by extension users.

Hooray for progress!

Eliza finds a new job as Microsoft’s PartnerBot

I saw Matt McSpirit‘s posting about Microsoft’s new PartnerBot IM agent and contest, and gave it a whirl.  The result was a bit disappointing, and then went downhill:

(4:45:55 PM) me: How can I combine SQL instances on SBS 2003?
(4:45:56 PM) MS PartnerBot: Welcome back…
Do you want more on How to buy SQL Server or SQL Server Product information?
(4:46:00 PM) me: no
(4:46:00 PM) MS PartnerBot: I’m sorry I couldn’t help – please try again
(4:46:16 PM) me: I’ll just ask instead
(4:46:16 PM) MS PartnerBot: Component Object Model
(4:46:20 PM) me: What?
(4:46:21 PM) MS PartnerBot: Partner Bot is unable to answer your query, please try again.
(4:46:30 PM) me: Like I said, Google will help.
(4:46:31 PM) MS PartnerBot: I’ll try to help – please type your question
(4:46:40 PM) me: No thanks.
(4:46:40 PM) MS PartnerBot: You’re welcome, please come back soon.
(4:46:55 PM) me: (for nothing)
(4:46:56 PM) MS PartnerBot: I cannot help you yet, could you refine your search?
(4:47:03 PM) me: Who’s asking the questions here?
(4:47:03 PM) MS PartnerBot: I’m sorry I can’t find that name in my directory – please try the Outlook Address Book
(4:47:17 PM) me: Ok.
(4:47:18 PM) MS PartnerBot: Partner Bot can’t understand your question. Please rephrase it.
(4:47:32 PM) me: Who is the Heartland District’s partner representative?
(4:47:33 PM) MS PartnerBot: Our partners are our priority – we want to help you develop and grow your business. Please visit the programme membership page at
(4:47:43 PM) me: Why don’t you show me that information here?
(4:47:43 PM) MS PartnerBot: In a competitive environment, having the right business intelligence can be the deciding factor in closing a deal. Gain a competitive edge with the information your customer needs to make a decision in your favour. Learn more at:
(4:47:58 PM) me: You’re Eliza, aren’t you?
(4:47:59 PM) MS PartnerBot: I am Partner Bot – code with attitude. Please type your question.
(4:48:04 PM) me: ha

“Code with attitude” — if only it was helpful too.

Hoopla Roundup for Internet Explorer 8

I won’t say it’s “finally” coming, because it might be one of Internet Explorer’s fastest major upgrades.  But IE8 is coming, and better yet, I think it is “finally” catching up with the competition.

The news is all over the place, and this time I won’t dig into the tech like I did with the IE7 beta.  I have installed the developer beta for a little testing, and it looks pretty similar to IE7.  Since the UI isn’t changing much, I think it’s a comparatively developer-heavy release (yum!). 

Here are some good official links:

And the interesting progress & commentary:

My own/other thoughts:

New Direction: A lot of the most interesting new stuff is neither UI/security improvements nor core web technology improvements, but Web 2.0-type stuff like Activities and WebSlices which seem to be targeting easier mashups and 3rd-party browser extensions.

Bad Chrome: A later IE7 release added back the Classic file menu.  Now they’ve added the crap links bar back in, sacrificing that much more viewport to the biggest waste of browser chrome.  Those plus the infobar warning I got right away doubles the 3 rows it should be, meaning if it goes live this way, my various inattentive relatives are gonna be scrolling way too much:


Developer’s Browser Ecosystem: IE7 usage is still roughly even with IE6, and seems to have leveled off.  It’s frustrating that IE6 is still hanging on so much.  Let’s get IE8 in and IE6 gone!

Cool, Vista security improved too


Microsoft just published an interesting Windows Vista One Year Vulnerability Report

I especially like this graph:
 Graph showing decrease of security vulnerabilities from Windows XP to Windows Vista

I mentioned a few days ago that Vista seems to have picked up at XP’s current level of stability.  From this it looks like it’s done the same with security. 

I think what’s remarkable is that they’ve accomplished this while increasing the amount of Windows code (because of new features).  Normally more code creates more ways for it to fail and to get hacked, but the Vista team has done the opposite.  That’s impressive.

For bonus points, read through the report’s comments (pretty fun on its own) and then read this response on the MS Software Development Lifecycle team blog.

Windows Vista & SP1

I’ve been using Vista Business for about a year.  I’ve had it on a secondary work machine since around May, and as my primary work machine since November. Overall, it’s quite nice.

But it’s definitely had its quirks, mostly with waking from standby or hibernation. I put a couple hotfixes on, and they definitely helped, but it still did have an occasional strangeness. That said, in almost a year’s time, I only remember needing to hard-reset it perhaps 3 times, and needing to reboot it maybe 5.

Now, I think that’s great, considering these machines belong to a tweaker like me (read: not a grandma or Mac-type user who doesn’t try new things).  I’d say it’s comparable reliability to a current stable XP system. This is an important comparison — XP has been maturing since 2001, but Vista started out at the same level of reliability.

As an aside, I’ve had several non-technical folks ask me “is Vista as bad as they say?” and I’ve only been able to respond “as who says?”  The only negative reviews I’ve seen were some journalists who must have put Vista on old hardware without current drivers.  But IT professionals I’ve talked to who’ve used Vista for a while seem to like it.

So anyway, I still didn’t want that occasional quirk, so I tracked down hot-off-the-presses Service Pack 1, and applied it last night.  It took about 45 minutes, and went flawlessly.  Hooray for that, and hopefully it sails even smoother now…