Internet Explorer : William Harrel – Journalist

HTML, CSS and JavaScript Development for Dummies

If, nearly 20 years ago, when I first started designing Web sites, you’d have told me I’d be writing a book about designing World Wide Web pages for cell phones, I’d have told you to lay off the crack. In those days, cell phones did nothing other than make and receive calls. The Internet, which most of us accessed through dial-up modems over inadequate copper phone lines, was a slow and temperamental Never-never land.  I, like everybody else writing about information technology (we didn’t call it that then), was still amazed when my mobile calls connected.

But here we are sliding into 2011 with a round of mobile devices that can handle the Internet nearly as well as full-blown computers. Mobile Web surfers have become a force to contend with. It’s time for Web designers and the companies they work for to make their Websites mobile-device friendly. In this new Dummies book, due out next spring, I’ll show you how to do that.

William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com

California Spine Institute

California Spine Institute

The folks at WilliamHarrel.com have been diligently upgrading the California Spine Institute’s (CSI) Website over the past few weeks, bringing it into the Twenty-First Century. As the original designers of World renowned Neurosurgeon, Dr. John C. Chiu’s first Website (SpineCenter.com) nearly 15 years ago, Bill and his staff have been asked to come back and give the old site a makeover. The new site is a completely scripted AS3 and XML modular Flash design, complementing CSI’s ultra-modern Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery (MISS)  and physical rehabilitation center, located in Thousand Oaks, California. Dr. Chiu is the primary developer of the Micro-Discectomy and Laser Thermodiskoplasty MISS procedures for eliminating pain from herniated spinal discs.

The new site is resplendent with content on spine surgery, MISS and Medical Laser technology–complete with videos, presentations, research and other information designed for medical professionals and the general public. It branches at the home page to accommodate professionals looking for technology solutions and providers and non-professionals looking for alternatives to conventional “open back” surgery.

“We have been tacking on new information almost weekly for many years,” says Dr. Chiu. “It has become a huge maze of mismatched designs [reflecting the styles of the several different designers employed to update it] and outdated material mixed in with the new, pertinent data.” It’s time to bring it all together in a format where users can find what they need without hunting and pecking.” Dr. Chiu added that he is excited about the work so far and eager to get it up and running.

While in development, the site is located at csi.williamharrel.com. It has been opened to the public during the final stages, with the warning that not everything works yet. But anybody is welcome to come and watch the project as  it nears completion. “Use the menus,” Bill Harrel says. “The page links don’t all work yet, and not all of the material they link to has been deployed.”

WilliamHarrel.com



 

Since my last post on upgrading from Vista to Windows 7, I (and many others) have experienced a number of snafus, ranging from the mildly annoying, to disastrous. In any case, the upgrade issues that arise during and after the upgrade process are at the least frustrating and incredible time wasters.

In last week’s Communication Technology Watch post about the upgrade experience, Installing Windows 7 – Not so Easy, I recounted some of the issues I encountered during the upgrade. Today we’ll look at some of the residual problems I have had to spend a few hours figuring out.

Compatibility Issues

During the upgrade process, Windows 7 checks to see if any of your programs are incompatible. Well, it did that for me, but missed one. After the upgrade finished, I started having trouble with my Internet connection. Windows 7 couldn’t communicate with the Windows 7 validation or Windows Update servers. I kept getting errors telling me that my serial number couldn’t validate; I should call Microsoft (eh!). Thinking that maybe a Win 7 update might solve the problem, I ran Windows Update, only to get an error telling me that either the Windows servers were too busy or there was something wrong with my firewall. Also, I could no longer download files successfully from my browser. The download would go all the way to the end, give me a message that I had one second left, and then hang. The few times the files did download successfully, they were corrupt.

None of the Troubleshooter solutions worked. I was pulling my hair out. I was beginning to think that the upgrade had failed, and was just getting ready to install Win 7 fresh on another computer. As a last ditch, I decided to go through my running services. To my dismay, I found an old antivirus program running that had been disabled for at least a year.

Attempts to stop the service or install the program proved futile. All the service control options, Start, Stop, Automatic, Manual, and Disable, were grayed out. During the uninstall process, I got an error that the program could only be uninstalled under XP or Vista. I was starting to think I was screwed.

I was able to stop the service in Safe Mode, but still can’t get it uninstalled.

Peripheral Woes

Within a day or two after the upgrade, I started having trouble with some peripherals and my video adaptor. My Logitech Bluetooth keyboard and mouse began disconnecting intermittently and some graphics programs wouldn’t display properly. It seems that, even though Windows 7 drivers are available for these devices, the upgrade utility decided to use the same Vista drivers already installed on my computer. Now that, my friends, is just downright neglect on Microsoft’s part.

Complaints from the World at Large

Apparently, my problems so far are fairly minor, compared to what some others are reporting. Checkout this link to cio.com for some real upgrade problems:

http://www.cio.com/article/506323/Users_Should_Delay_Windows_7_Upgrade_Support_Firm_Warns?page=2

A survey over at Gizmodo reports that about 20 percent of the upgrades have been troublesome. This is surely much better than the Vista release, but still, one in five!

http://gizmodo.com/5390991/over-80-of-you-had-a-smooth-windows-7-install-experience

William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com

We’ve all been watching as Microsoft ‘s mobile OS struggles to catch up with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Granted, creating a modern operating system for handheld’s can’t be easy, but Microsoft’s competitors have proven it can be done. The question is, why can’t Microsoft keep up? Windows Mobile 6.5 is definitely a step forward, but hardly a finished competitor. Besides, many of the Mobile 6.1 devices out there are not upgradeable, meaning that a substantial number of Windows phone users will have to buy new devices to take advantage of the upgrade. With Mobile 7 so close to being released (perhaps as early as April 2010, more likely the second half of 2010), why would we bother? Especially since there is a good chance that many 6.5 devices probably won’t be upgradeable, either. Has Microsoft sold us short again? Should we shell out a few hundred bucks for an incremental upgrade? Does this upgrade get us close to iPhone and Android functionality? What are reviewers saying about Mobile 6.5? Let’s take a look at 6.5, compare it to Mobile 7, and decide whether we should wait to upgrade.

iPhone Clone?

Take a look at the homepage on the Samsung phone in the picture above. Look familiar? If not, check out this phone:

Apple iPhone

Apple's iPhone

Looks pretty similar, doesn’t it? Well, just because it looks like a duck… While there are some things I don’t like about the iPhone, such as the lack of slide-out keyboard and that you are relegated to using AT&T cell service–Windows Mobile 6.5 is still lacking several iPhone key features. Here are a couple of the most notable:

  • Multi-Touch technology allows users to move and stretch images and application windows with simple multiple-finger input gestures, increasing ease of use and productivity.
  • Shake and Bump features allows users to manipulate and exchange data, images, videos, and play games with other users with simple shake or bump movements of the phone.

If you’ve ever seen an iPhone user say something into the phone, and then shake the device to execute the command, it’s pretty slick. We won’t see either of the above features until Mobile 7. Mobile 6.5 has only the single-touch function, a function that, until now, was only available to Windows Mobile users through overlays built into the device by the phone manufacturer. Multi-touch is still not available.

The Sad Truth

Where Mobile 6.5 is concerned, the real story is what’s missing. The upgrade really is a yawn, as recounted in this Gizmodo post:

http://gizmodo.com/5374876/windows-mobile-65-review-theres-no-excuse-for-this

Now compare this to early reviews of Mobile 7:

http://www.engadget.com/2008/01/06/is-this-windows-mobile-7/

Granted, this post is old, but it is a pretty good recap of what we can expect from Mobile 7.

Me? Well, since my phone is not yet upgradeable to Mobile 6.5, I plan to wait until it is or until Mobile 7. I’m sure not buying a new phone just to run an incremental upgrade, at best.

[Watch for the release of my book Windows Mobile 7 for Dummies with the release of the Mobile 7 OS.]

William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com

OK. So we have another IE, version 8. Once again Microsoft piles on the features, changes the interface, and introduces frustrating new “security” with disregard for the enduser. It’s a toss-up as to whether a couple of new wizz-bang enhancements make upgrading to version 8 worthwhile. Why is it that it always takes a service pack or two before upgrades to this product are stable?

Nifty New Features

Granted, there are a couple of new features that will make browsing somewhat easier, but I would rather have seen the bloat and performance issues fixed–besides, this new version has introduced a couple more problems. But let’s look at the good, before ranting about the bad and the ugly.

Accelerators

Accelerators don’t really accelerate anything. They are designed to save you steps. And, for the most part they do. The concept is that you can get in-place content with a few mouse clicks, rather than having to navigate to new pages.

Here is an example of how it looks with Live Maps:

IE 8 Accelerator with Live Maps

IE 8 Accelerator with Live Maps

What I found after playing with this for awhile is that it works pretty good with Microsoft sites, such as Encarta, Live Mail, and Live Maps, but when you use a non-Microsoft accelerator, such as Google, you are navigated away from the page anyway–and the back button is disabled! You can’t easily get back to the original page. Hmmm….
Overall, this feature is pretty handy, though. Here is a link to a bunch of videos on Microsoft’s Website that shows Accelerators and other new features in action:

 Web Slices

Web Slices is, perhaps, the best new feature. Basically it allows you to flag specific Web pages. IE will then monitor them and notify you when the content on the page changes. This is great for monitoring blogs, auctions, and so on. And you can setup as many Web Slices as you want and set the monitoring and notification intervals.

Here is an example of Web Slices monitoring an Ebay auction:

IE 8 Web Slices lets you monitor pages for changes to content.

IE 8 Web Slices lets you monitor pages for changes to content.

Here is a link to a page on Microsoft’s site that describes Web Slices in detail:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/features/web-slices.aspx

The thing to keep in mind with both Accelerators and Web Slices is that the owners of the sights you want to monitor have to setup server-side Accelerator and Web Slice applications in order for your IE to use them. So far, not many sites have Web Slices or Accelerators available.

Other new features

There are some other new, not-so-exciting features that Microsoft is touting as all that and a bag of chips, but for the most part they are ho-hum. Here they are:

  • InPrivate Browsing
  • Search Suggestions
  • SmartScreen Filter

You can get descriptions of them here:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/features/overview.aspx?tabid=1&catid=1

And, of course, there is always Microsoft’s constant “security” enhancements. Whether security is acutally enhanced (or that these changes are necessary), I am not really qualified to judge. But I do know that each new browser upgrade makes using IE more difficult.

For example, (and I am just getting started using IE 8), some security enhancement in IE 8 has crippled my ability to upload images to this blog through the WordPress interface while using IE 8. I keep getting an error that the target directory can’t be created. (The directory is already there.) None of the documents on Microsoft’s support site address this specific issue. So I have had to change the way I upload images. Or use another browser.

The same Old Bloated IE

I have always had problems with IE that I never have with Safari or FireFox. Since upgrading to Vista, the latest two issues are quite aggrivating. First, for some reason, now and then IE just stops working. I get a Not Responding error. Sometimes, after several minutes, it corrects itself. Other times, I have to go into Task Manager and kill IE to get it to work again. Second, when ever my Laptop goes to sleep (as it does every night), after waking it up, I cannot get IE to open within 5 or 10 minutes, not without rebooting my computer, that is.

(I know, you’re thinking that something is wrong with my computer. Perhaps, but, again, the other two browsers don’t behave like this.)

One of the reasons I upgraded was to try to solve these two issue. No luck. The program is still huge, takes much too long to load and is terribly quirky. If I run into any more problems, I am going back to version 7. It is usually a good idea to wait for the first service pack release before upgrading any Microsoft product.

Bill Harrel – www.williamharrel.com



 

How many times has a Web design client asked you, “Can I edit it myself?” Immediately you cringe, thinking about how hard it will be to train them to make small edits to their Website, and how easy it is for them to ruin your hard work. Well, if you use DreamWeaver and are willing to upgrade to CS4, Adobe has come up with a fairly good solution, Adobe InContext.

Changing text color from inside Internet Explorer

Changing text color from inside Internet Explorer

InContext allows you to define regions on a page within DreamWeaver that endusers and clients can then edit from Explorer or some other Web browser, and then save their edits back to the Web server. InContext is a bit of a hassle to setup-each site has to be registered at adobe.com-but once you’ve gone through all the setup steps, sure enough, the document can be edited from a browser. The best part is that only the regions you define as editable can be changed; the rest of the page is untouchable.

It works like this:

  • You define a region or regions on the page for InContext editing.
  • When you save and upload the page, DreamWeaver automatically creates 3 small files, 2 javascript files and an html file, and saves them in the Includes folder on the server.
  • You then go to the Adobe Website and register the site. If you haven’t registered a site before, you will also have register as an InContext administrator-a relatively quick and easy procedure. And, so far, it is free.
  • After you register the InContext site, you can then add users and send them invitations to edit the site using InContext. An email with instructions for accessing the InContext session from inside their browser is sent via email.
  • Now, when you or a user browse to that site and go to an editable page, all you have to do is hit Ctrl-E (Windows) or Command-E (Mac).
  • This starts the InContext session and the site can now be edited in the browser.

There are two tutorials on the Adobe Website describing this process. One for the DreamWeaver designer, or developer – http://www.adobe.com/devnet/dreamweaver/articles/getting_started_with_ice_dev.html

And one for the enduser, or “content editor” – http://www.adobe.com/devnet/dreamweaver/articles/getting_started_with_ice_eu_03.html

Depending on the role you choose on Adobe’s site for the enduser, they can make various types of edits, including:

  • Text formatting and style (the default)
  • Image insertion and management
  • Insertion and management of hyperlinks.

Pros of InContext
The best thing I can say about this solution is that it works and works fairly well. The enduser doesn’t need to have or know how to use DreamWeaver or any other Webpage design program. Nor do you need to teach your client (or employee) the intricacies of FTP and editing a page in a text editor, all the while praying that they don’t change the wrong things. Once up and running, it is pretty slick and works well.

Oh yeah, and did I mention it is free?

Cons of InContext
The three things I liked least about this solution is that: It is a bit time consuming to setup. It locks you and your client into the Adobe website and Adobe products, no matter what the future brings (I have been using Adobe products for years and don’t really see myself switching. However, I’d bet it would have been just as easy for Adobe to create javascripts that enabled InContext without registering on the Adobe Website. But then this would have made this solution relatively easy to use with any Webpage design program-it’s easy to understand why they wouldn’t want that.); Finally, InContext only works with the latest doctypes (i.e., HTML 4.01). If you have been designing sites as long as I have, you will have plenty with earlier doctypes. If so, you will have to change the doctype on every page you want to setup to use InContext.

You can find a good description of InContext on Adobe’s site at http://www.adobe.com/products/incontextediting/

An ongoing discussion of InContext can be found here: http://www.graphicrating.com/2008/10/27/adobe-incontext-editing/

Bill Harrel – www.williamharrel.com