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OpenACS Home : Forums : OpenACS Q&A : OpenACS home page CRASHES Netscape

Forum OpenACS Q&A: OpenACS home page CRASHES Netscape

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
When the layout was falling apart in Netscape 4.7, I kinda could live with it. However, today it crashes the browser. This is overboard, guys.

Screenshot (Windows NT 4.0, Netscape 4.7)

Additional rant #1: The forum doesn't let me post <img src="http://www.vad1.com/oacs-20021112-crash-netscape-4_7.gif" width=774 height=402> saying it doesn't fit its notion of allowed tags.

Additional rant #2: Screenshot of posting this comment in IE 5.0. Note layout bugs.

Can't you just stop playing with fancy gadgets and concentrate on REAL usability?

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
The Netscape crash is actually intermitent, still occuring most of the time. And this is what I meant by layout falling apart (screenshot). Funny enough, the home page is about the only page on the site that looks wrong in Netscape.
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Posted by Jeff Davis on
I fixed the reply form rendering bug by removing the
width="690" from the forms/standard.adp (which no
doubt will break other things somewhere else).
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Posted by Jeff Davis on
Oh, that did not fix it.  It prevents it from being clipped on my screen but with a smaller screen it clips again.

Vadim, why don't you look at the html and tell me how you
think it should be changed (I would look at acs-templating/resources/forms/standard.adp as a start).

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
Did you change it in the live version? I can't reproduce the bug.

Looking at the page source, I can think that all the problems reside in STYLE="table-layout: fixed" thing. Unfortunately I have zero experience with css and still regard them as a gimmick, so the only suggestion I can offer is to get rid of any style, span, etc. tags.

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Posted by Jeff Davis on

Yes, I did change it in the live version.

Unfortunately I have zero experience with css and still regard them as a gimmick
That's pretty funny. It's good to know where you come down on this whole web standards thing. It's also a pretty misguided view but I can understand why you might think that if you are still using NN4.7

I think they are a good thing (as do most other people working on OpenACS), and I think we will gradually work our way to the point that most of templates shipped with openacs are stylesheet based.

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
I regard them as a gimmick solely by the number of bad designs and compatibility problems they produced on the Web. Everything can be mastered and done well, stylesheets including, but I think they are unnecessary complication to the task of HTML coding in 90% cases and they encourage incompatible design. I still do not see why I personally should bother with them and with any fancy layout as well. There are more important issues to site making - namely content, services, functionality. If you are going to ship cross-browser-incompatible solutions with stock install of OpenACS, to me you are focusing on a wrong thing. These can be always added later by the designer if he/she chooses to customize it this way :)
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Posted by Simon at TCB on
I don't wish to be overly unkind Vadim, but I suspect 'gimmicky' is a something of a minority opinion.

Ok, I'd certainly accept that, as with HTML itself, its not a perfect model, but its rare that anything is. They are extremely useful, particularly when building larger sites, and sites where high level of dynamic, growing content are a feature.

They also offer a much simpler way to apply a certain level of automation/logic to the management of page format.

Having well designed and well managed style sheets as part of the core acs is a highly desirable thing. As ever, I'm sure great care and substantive thought will go into any such addition to the toolkit, as is most often the case here, and therefore I'm sure the benefits will be visible and universal.

Although I'd like to add that its not always the case the the 'lowest common denominator' approach is either wise or implicit, as you continually seem to suggest. Some companies, some indiviudals, some communities may genuinely find that the benefits of not appealing to all possible environments is outweighed by the possible negative aspects.

Take NN4.7. Lets face it... it was a *really* fussy and *really* inconsistent browser. Yes, you can do your best to cater for that browser and limit your resources, profitability and functionality if you want, but lets accept that whatever you do there are going to be thousands of sites that look shite in NN.7. Ultimately the user is going to change browser, rather than wait for a re-development of the entire internet.

It is important to cater for *choice* in terms of what your users can use as a browser, but it is not a question of a kind of moral obligation to support every browser under the sun. You provide the range of choice you feel acceptable to satisfy the majority of the community. I for one don't resent having had a 'push' to get off NN4.7 and discover the delights (and teeney footprint) of opera.

We'd be forgiven for having one or two little glitches on NN4.7, but we'd not get much thanks for a poor website on the most common of browsers...

I don't see that as defeatist, or poor design, its merely common sense and simple economics of organic processes

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Posted by Dave Bauer on
Vadim,

Netscape 4.7 crashes due to a bug in the renderer.

That said, we did test the home page with Netscape 4.7, so we will have to do some more work to get it working.

We are not ignoring Netscape 4, but it does have quite a few bugs that will never be fixed. Also the people who are working on the site do not have every browser, so we do rely on reports from other users.

Using CSS makes maintaining a site wide style much easier. That is why it is used. Changing the style in one file is more efficient than changing hundreds of files.

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Posted by Don Baccus on
We've had this discussion, not much point in rehashing it.  Vadim, few if any members of the community agree with your feelings that CSS should be avoided.  They are, after all, part of standard HTML.

As a community we also decided to support NN4.7 as best we can.  The fact that it crashes sometimes when given standard HTML isn't a bug in our site, it's a bug in NN4.7.

I suppose you'd like us to support Postgres 4.2 also?

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
I wholeheartedly agree with the above arguments when it's applied to any particular site, community or company. Every developer and project is of course free to choose what to support, what compromises to make and how to allocate resources better.

However, a toolkit is used as a base for building hundreds very different sites and comminities, with different decisions behind each of them. This is what makes a difference. A toolkit must follow a reasonable 'lowest common denominator' approach. And, the home page is the face of the toolkit.

I played a bit with the source of home page. The vertical bars are missing either because Netscape doesn't support background GIFs with transparency or because of the file format (I used Photoshop 5.0 to save transparent GIFs). The bars appear if redone with no-transparency GIFs; this one is trivial to fix.

Now, the other layout issues are more difficult. The columns are made through the use of stylesheets. I have little idea how to debug that. Perhaps since older browsers don't support stylesheets, it's beter to make a table layout for the home page. Should I proceed with that?

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
The current layout very consistently falls apart in css-compatible browsers (IE 5.0, Opera 5, Mozilla 1.0) as soon as the longest word in the side columns starts to "push up" the column width designated in the stylesheet. The longest word is currently LunuxJournal.com in the lower right box. As soon as the width of browser window is reduced to 500-700 pixels, it starts to push away the side of that box in all these browsers, no matter what it's pushing it over :)

With table layout, this bug wouldn't happen. First, the browser will redistribute the column width. When the longest words will be pushing all columns, a horizontal scroll bar will appear.

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
And yes, the current desing sucks when viewed on WebTV (no support for css). We'd never convince a user of WebTV device that OpenACS is any good :-(

Seriously, it looks like virtually all big sites (e.g. yahoo, shashdot, amazon, cnn) use tables for multi-column layout, not css. It should be possible to replicate our home page design with tables. Does it make sense if I try this, what do you think?

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
Sorry for multiple posts. I've just checked, it bugs in IE 6.0/Win2000, too. Try to reduce the window width gradually, and as you go below 700 pixels you'll see the columns jumping insanely up and down, breaking the layout completely.
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Posted by Don Baccus on
How many users with no access to the web other than WebTV are developing complex database-backed sites?  Zero is my guess.

If the site works for screens 800 pixels wide, I think we're OK.

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Posted by Matthew Geddert on
I'm with Don, real web developers won't be developing using a tv. Though, i was thinking about installing linux on my Xbox...
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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
Developers are not using WebTV, but the users who visit their sites are. I just wanted to point out there are current browsers that don't support css; not a big percent but some. The design from our home page will be copied by developers and is likely to eventually proliferate into packages. It needs be a good example.

It's common to have browser window that's not taking the whole screen. IE spawns non-maximized windows by default, and users may occasionally want to tile two windows side-by-side. We may occasionally have a long_non_breakable_word_in_the_columns (for example, a forum topic with some long variable name in it). Pages really should work gracefully at any window width. Finally, what about possible portable devices with small screens, we don't want to support them? It looks like the layout falling apart at smaller widths is an expected behaviour of this css layout, no? It better be fixed either by changing css or by switching to using a table for column layout. I like tables as they seem to be more robust if a bit inflexible from programmer's standpoint. I can try to make it if you think this won't break some overall concept.

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Posted by Bernd Eidenschink on
Hm. Don't even think about starting to support _all_ of these "channels". The moment you are using Javascript and CSS you are usually lost, but nevertheless they are an important help in increasing positive site experience and usability.

Very often non-web-savy people critizise web frontends (they are allowed to do!) and not using any technology that lies around to support them and is called "standard" would be a shame.

The human resources you need to distribute your content to all that hype or not hype targets are tremendous, it's definitely not done with fixing some tables. You need specialists for every channel or days and weeks of research. Browsers are enough for that battle, imho. You know that one page in XY browser version Z can look differently on the same browser and version just on a different operating system due to different implementations. And you know that Javascript support can change from subversion 4.6 to 4.7 or even 4.6a to 4.6b. So with CSS. It's simply not worth to claim that product X (e.g. OpenACS) delivers browser independent markup.

Maybe the current discussion is just a natural consequence of the style and layout change / efforts. Also it's ok that Vadim originally notified the community that NN4.7 crashes. But, imho, supporting WebTV, Konqueror, Netscape, Mozilla, IE, Opera, and of course, Lynx (both, the one with and without color and frame support, of course), maybe WML, Users that life in the 640x480 world (256 colors) ... that is really the job of the people deploying the toolkit in a real project.

my 5 cent.

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Posted by Gilbert Wong on
Vadim - Why don't you submit some HTML code that will fix the problem?  It seems like you have access to many browsers and platforms.  Oh and thanks for your email a while back that explained why I should support NS 4.x.  It was filed straight into the trash can without further consideration...

OpenACS team - great job with the new website!

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Posted by Torben Brosten on
Vadim, have compassion for these negative statements about NN4.7 etc.

As you are aware, NN4.7 is a great canary (to mix metaphors) for sorting out fault tolerant html and css.  Canaries used to be used in mining expeditions to indicate the presence of toxic gases before others are affected.  NN4.7 breaks easily with "toxic" code and works fairly well with fault tolerant code, making it a great canary for testing fault tolerance against a growing list of browsers and browsing applications.

To get NN4.7 working, turn off the CSS rendering in the Preferences area.  Yes, the pure html work isn't quite settled either, but NN4.7 should not crash.

An html/css fix was already submitted before the revisions went live. Priorities to fixing and documenting existing code took priority over fixing the html/css --the site functions on a developing environment afterall.

Torben