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Internet Explorer 11 User Agent Appears Like Firefox

March 26, 2013

This morning was the first time I had heard “Internet Explorer 11” even mentioned. Microsoft released the first platform preview of Internet Explorer 10 a mere four weeks after the release of Internet Explorer 9, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if IE11 was already starting to make an appearance in some form.

The new upgrade to Windows 8 – dubbed Windows Blue – was leaked on the Internet recently which revealed Internet Explorer 11. It was also discovered that its user agent will mimic that of Firefox. Interesting.

Mozilla/5.0 (IE 11.0; Windows NT 6.3; Trident/7.0; .NET4.0C; rv:11.0) like Gecko

Above is the reported user agent string. I have only seen it in a screen shot so I apologize for any typographical errors.

It’s theorized Microsoft is going down this route to avoid browser sniffing and having a different CSS style sheet served because it’s Internet Explorer and not one of the standard compliant browsers. See what I did there?

I think it’s a little too early to tell what the final user agent string will be for Internet Explorer, and for all we know this could be completely false or fake, so I’m going to withhold any judgement until there’s at least a platform preview available. The browser though appears to be in its infancy since the only information I can find about it on the Internet is related to the Windows Blue leak and its user agent string. Or maybe Microsoft is keeping a very tight lid on it. We shall see.

Posted in Browsers

Internet Explorer 8 is the New Internet Explorer 6

March 20, 2013

What’s really unfortunate is that Internet Explorer 8 is going to become the new Internet Explorer 6 in its own way. There’s enough of a leap between versions 8 and 9 that web designers and developers are going to have to use special techniques and “hacks” to get things to work on Internet Explorer 8. According to StatCounter, in February 2013 Internet Explorer 8 still enjoyed a 10.76% market share. That means for every ten users who visit your site, one of them will be using Internet Explorer 8. That number is too large to ignore.

It sucks knowing that virtually every other browser is enjoying decent to great standards compliance of HTML5 and CSS3.

At my work all too often we’ll want to include a cool feature or effect but we either have to say no, or figure out how to accomplish the same thing in JavaScript because Internet Explorer 8 doesn’t support it. The most common annoyance is the CSS3 pseudo-class :last-child. The other common offender is :nth-child, most commonly used for styling alternate rows in tables.

To be fair these two annoyances can be remedied rather quickly using jQuery or making some alterations to server-side code to print out a class for each alternate row, but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that there’s more coding and additional overhead to accommodate Internet Explorer 8.

There was another instance recently where a client wanted the first letter in each paragraph to be large, bold, and a different font, than the rest of the paragraph. This content also had to be easily editable for the client, so we couldn’t just slap a span tag around the first letter. Doing so would require additional training to teach the client how to do this, something that’s costly and prone to error since most clients don’t understand HTML – even after you show them. I suggested using the :first-letter pseudo-element. I had to preface it with its inability to render correctly in anything lower than Internet Explorer 9. We ended up using it but also explained to the client its limitations.

The worst of all is that thanks to consumers’ reluctance to give up Windows XP (seriously, folks, it’s nearly 12 years old. Upgrade already.), Internet Explorer 8 is here to stay until at least April 8, 2014, which is when Microsoft pulls the plug on its support for XP. Currently now the company pushes security patches through Windows Update for XP, but that will all end on the aforementioned date. I cannot wait.

Posted in Browsers

Internet Explorer 10 Released For Windows 7

March 1, 2013

Finally, after months of availability on Windows 8, Microsoft has released Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7. It became globally available on February 26. Microsoft will be pushing the browser through its update system in the coming weeks and months. It’s only available for Windows 8 and 7; it is not available for Windows Vista. In the meantime you can head over to Microsoft’s website and download the browser manually.

So, is it worth the wait? Well, it certainly has improved over Internet Explorer 9 in terms of HTML5 and CSS3 compliance. Microsoft is boasting that the new browser supports more than 30 new standards over the previous iteration, including (my most-wanted) text-shadow (yes it has taken them this long to implement that). Internet Explorer 10 has closed the gap with Chrome and Firefox in terms of standards adoption, though if Microsoft maintains its schedule of large delays between releases, that gap is going to grow rather large rather quickly. In the meantime though let’s hope people start updating their browser.

I have updated the browser on my computer and indeed it is quite speedy, but to be honest that was never really the problem with Internet Explorer, especially not with Internet Explorer 9. I never really had any speed issues with the browser. My issues came with the lack of standards adoption and the poorly designed UI (and the lack of add-ons and extensions like the other leading browsers).

Just for fun though I decided to give the newest browsers a run through the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark tool. I know there are a number of JavaScript benchmark tools available now, but this seems to be one of the more popular ones. I’m not expecting much from this test, nor should it be an indicator which browser you use; all the major browsers have made huge strides in their JavaScript performance and it’s pretty much a non-issue now. But, nonetheless, I like to test them out anyway just to see. The smaller the number the better the result.

  1. Internet Explorer 10 98.5ms
  2. Chrome 25.0.1364.160 142.5ms
  3. Firefox 19.0.2 172.3ms
  4. Safari 5.1.7 182.0ms
  5. Opera 12.14 183.3ms

The results were more or less what I expected. Microsoft had a very fast JavaScript engine in Internet Explorer 9 that also led the pack. As the results show, the browsers are all pretty close with each other, more or less. Remember these results are in milliseconds.

So where does this leave us? Well, hopefully people will upgrade to the newest version if they’re still using Internet Explorer. Hopefully by year’s end most Windows users will be using Internet Explorer 10. Of course those who refuse to give up XP can only upgrade to Internet Explorer 8, but that issue is for another post.

Posted in Browsers

The Dvorak Keyboard – Part IV

February 25, 2013

It’s been about a full year since I started using the Dvorak keyboard and it’s been quite the journey. This will likely be my last post about my Dvorak progress. I think a year is enough to gauge how well I have come along. When I embarked on this journey I went into it with the mindset, “Can I do this?”

Did I? I think so. I struggled in the beginning like many people do, but I was able to pick up the new layout in due time. I should have done a lot more lessons and learned the keyboard instead of just diving in and forcing myself to type. I think by doing that I have picked up a couple bad habits but nothing that prevents me from typing at a reasonable speed. For example I find myself hitting the L key with my ring finger instead of my pinky.

One of the biggest questions about learning Dvorak is what are the benefits? Namely, did your typing speed/accuracy improve? Unfortunately I didn’t quite know what my speed was before on the QWERTY layout, though I know I have done tests where I managed to get in the mid-80wpm. But I don’t know my actual typing speed with it. I also feel like typing tests are not an accurate portrayal of one’s tying ability; reading and typing can be challenging for many whereas just typing what you’re thinking can yield quite different results.

But anyway, I jumped on Typeracer a few times throughout the year to see how I was doing as a way of gauging my progress. I remember when I first started with it I was hovering around the 30wpm mark. A little while later I was in the mid-50s. Recently in the months of December to January I was hitting the mid-70s, so it was evident that my speed and accuracy was improving. At least with Typeracer.

Do I feel better though? Was it worth it? I think so. It was a fun and challenging experience and I am now fully engulfed in the layout, completely abandoning the QWERTY layout except on my phone (where I can still type on it quite well). If I try to use the QWERTY layout on another computer I am met with some difficulty though I can usually do it no problem as long as I am able to look at the keyboard. I am quite fast on the phone still, though.

All in all I am quite happy with it, plus it’s a nice conversation starter, and even a little amusing when I visit someone’s house and have to use their computer and they see me struggling to type. I often get asked, “I thought you were a computer nerd, shouldn’t you be able to type quickly?” I then show them the keyboard layout I use and I’m met with some astonished reactions.

I have seen some other keyboard layouts that have caught my eye, such as Colemak, but for now I am going to stick with Dvorak. It was a great little journey and I am glad I was able to accomplish what I set out to do. That’s always a good feeling.

Posted in Hardware

A New Kind of Browser War?

February 22, 2013

Many people are familiar with the browser war of the 90s, where Microsoft and Netscape duked it out for Internet supremacy. Even more people know that Microsoft was the undisputed champion of that bout. Netscape continued to make browsers many years after, but its presence was never the same.

We are currently experiencing a browser war right now. Microsoft, Mozilla, and Google with Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome, respectively, are vying for top spot. For the first time in about two decades, Microsoft was not the top browser maker and instead, (relative) newcomers Google took the lead.

But there’s a hidden browser war going on that most people don’t even know exists: behind every browser there’s a rendering engine. The rendering engine is the main component of the browser that displays everything on the screen including the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s the heart of the browser.

There are currently five major browsers and four major rendering engines:

  • Internet Explorer uses Trident, a proprietary engine designed by Microsoft
  • Firefox uses Gecko, a free, open-source engine used in several other projects
  • Chrome and Safari both use Webkit, a free, open-source engine used in several other projects
  • Opera uses Presto, a proprietary engine designed by Opera

About a week ago Opera announced it would stop developing its proprietary rendering engine and instead use Webkit. Some thought this was a great move in standardizing the web while others thought it was in Opera’s best interests to continue developing its engine to help foster competition.

Personally, I’m not a fan of Webkit. I think Gecko is much better rendering engine (as you can tell from viewing this blog) and I think the way certain elements are rendered and the way fonts appear are much better in Gecko.

Webkit already holds approximately 40% of the browser rendering engine market share, with Trident and Gecko making up for the rest. I’m not sure how much Opera has, but considering its flagship browser only holds about 2% of the browser market share, I’m going to make the assumption that it’s a rather small piece of the pie.

So what does this mean for the future? Well, it’s considerably possible now that Webkit may become the favoured engine when developers, companies, corporations, and clients want web work done. That’s how business already operates now, doesn’t it? You cater to the largest market share (or at least, your largest market share). Despite Webkits 40%, things are pretty evenly split; there’s no obvious favouritism (that I can tell) but it’s possible that could change in a couple of years (much to my dismay).

What’s your take on this situation? Do you think things will start to tip in Webkit’s favour? Was Opera’s decision to abandon its proprietary rendering engine a good thing for the web or a bad thing?

Posted in Browsers