Tag: "web browsers"

Windows "8" on an old school Tablet PC

Long term readers will know I've long been a fan of the Tablet PC. Having owned two and certainly would have owned a few more if the budget had been more favourable. My first was a Toshiba Portege M200, and my most recent has been a Motion Computing LE1700. Windows XP SP2 was really great at making a PC usable with a pen. Windows Vista took that a step further and really developed a lot of the things we take for granted today, a handwriting recognition engine that learns and of course pen flicks. Enabling you to make quick gestures to scroll up and down a page, or navigate back and forward, among others.

Windows 7 however - bar slightly better performance on low end systems - took a massive step backwards with Internet Explorer 8. Pen flicks which by then we had all grown to love broke, badly. Scrolling up and down just didn't work in IE8 when using standards modes, that remained the case with IE9 despite me almost constantly hassling the IE team over it. You had to move over and grab the scroll bar. Urrggh.

Now however with the "touch-first" focus on Windows 8. I'm pleased to say pen flicks work properly in Internet Explorer 10, and it has really brought new life back to my LE1700. Unfortunately neither of my tablets support hardware accelerated graphics in Internet Explorer - so many of the Metro style apps run with near-unusable performance if they run at all, the LE1700 only has an Intel 845 which only ever supported WDDM 1.0. But at least we've got a browser that works properly again on Tablets (before Firefox or Chrome fanboys start, neither of those have ever worked properly on Tablets).

I've got one of the lower-end original LE1700s, Core Solo @ 1.2Ghz w/ 2GB of RAM. But it has the higher resolution 1440x1050 screen. Day to day operations work great, like they did on Windows 7. Start up time is much faster and having a picture password is a welcome improvement, and in many ways works faster than the finger-print reader.

However out of the box I ran into an issue where the CPU was being pegged at 100% by NT Kernel & System, which I successfully tracked down to be an issue with the "Standard Enhanced PCI to USB Host" driver - which I've now disabled. The classic desktop stuff works as great as it ever has, and better in many ways. Not having to go all the way down into a corner to get at the Start menu is a nice feature since my pen lives in my right hand often at the right-side of the screen.

There are consistency issues and general usability issues with the new Metro UI however. It isn't possibly to scroll the Start screen by dragging with the pen at all, nor by flicking the pen. In fact flicking left and right actually moves the currently selected tile. You have to use the scroll-bar instead. Kind of annoying, but then some applications behave differently, some you can click and drag, while others you can hold the right-button to bring up the scroll functionality, and some you just can't seem to move at all without the arrow keys or page up or page down. This is an area I hope they'll be looking at. As it is kind of a breaking deal if you're using an active-digitiser based tablet, although I understand that isn't exactly the key market they're after any more.

Internet Explorer 9 - fastest browser on mobiles too

Internet Explorer 9 came out a few weeks ago, if you're not using it. I'd recommend it. Especially people who are still using Firefox. It is well documented as the fastest browser out there. Not just in javascript speed, but also important areas like start time, and page rendering.

With the update to Windows Phone coming later this year, Internet Explorer 9 will be included. With it comes all the HTML5, and hardware acceleration that IE9 brought to Windows, but now in your pocket.

Here's a video to give you an idea:

To sum up, Internet Explorer 9 on Windows Phone renders at 23 fps, Chrome comes in at 11 fps on Android, and Safari on an iPhone 4 comes in at a dismal 2 fps.

Google sinking faster than Internet Explorer

The technology press continue to amuse me, long have they spouted the myth about the death of Internet Explorer. They always tout the gradual erosion in the usage share of Internet Explorer, a few years ago we'd see articles every month about how usage share has declined.

Today Internet Explorer remains healthy with 56.77% (according to Net Applications). Over the last year it had four months of growth, but overall is down 4.81%. Coincidently the tech press' old darling Firefox lost 2.47% share during the same period, losing 11% of its users, compared to Internet Explorer that only lost 8% of its users.

But how is Google, the darling of the technology press doing in its core business of search?

Using the same logic that the press apply to Internet Explorer, Google Search is far beyond a sinking ship, its a shipwreck that's on fire and is about to explode.

Google have dropped from 74.5% marketshare last year to 65% this year (According to Compete). Google managed to shed 9.5% share to its main rival Bing. With numbers like that more than 12% of Google's users in the last year have moved over to Bing.

That's double the marketshare that Internet Explorer lost in the same period.

Yet we don't hear a peep about this.

Of course Internet Explorer isn't really a sinking ship, Internet Explorer 8 was the fastest growing browser ever, and version 9 not only offers fantastic HTML5 support, it is also the fastest browser on the planet. Nor is Google Search a shipwreck on fire about to explode, I actually use it for most of my complicated search queries, because it handles them better than Bing, which is better at more mainstream stuff.

The point of this post has simply been to highlight the hypocrisy in the technology press. They can't call Internet Explorer a disaster, and cite losing 5% marketshare without calling Google Search an even bigger disaster.

Controlling how IE9 renders pages

With Internet Explorer 9 Microsoft have made some changes to how it renders which end-users may find noticable. Previously in Internet Explorer 7 and 8 it didn't matter, nor was detectable to an end-user if IE was rendering a page in quirks mode or in standards mode.

Internet Explorer 9 however has removed the 2 pixel border that previously versions of Internet Explorer had.

IE9 rendering a page as IE8IE9 rendering a page in standards mode

On the left IE9 is rendering a page as IE8 would. As such the border is included to maintain compatibility. However on the right we can see IE9 rendering a page by default, with no border.

Web developers can control how Internet Explorer renders a page using the Doctype and also the X-UA-Compatible tag.

The Doctype is probably the most common way. No DocType, Internet Explorer will render a page as IE6 would, dubbed quirks mode. This will result in the 2 pixel border around your website.

Using a Doctype such as the new HTML5 one <!DOCTYPE html>, or one of the XHTML or HTML ones should work fine.

Alternatively you can also use the X-UA-Compatible tag in the page's header. This has the added advantage of removing the compatibility button. If you're confident a webpage will be correctly displayed to a visitor, why pollute thier screen with an option that isn't needed.

You can use <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=9" /> to remove the button. IE7, 8 and 9 will all render the page as close to standards as they can. However if IE10 was released, it would switch to compatibility mode for IE9. You can get around this by specifying "edge" instead of a version number.

Subscribing to an RSS feed in Internet Explorer 9

With Microsoft about to unveil the release candidate of Internet Explorer 9, I thought I should take some time to cover probably the only regression that will impact a lot of people. Before I start, I'd like to make myself clear that this regression is worth the massive improvements that Internet Explorer 9 brings across the board.

As you may have guessed from the title, it surrounds subscribing to RSS feeds. With the new slimmed down, and to the point IE, the RSS subscription button is no longer displayed by default. It's hidden in the optional command bar.

In many cases this isn't a problem, click on a link to the RSS feed on a webpage and Internet Explorer will open it in feed view, where you can easily subscribe to it anyway.

The problem comes from websites that don't actually give you a link to their RSS feeds on the page. Typically they would expect you to click on a web browsers feed button to view it, with it no longer displayed in IE9, that may be a tad annoying.

The other problem comes from websites that use services like Feedburner, when they detect a web browser, rather than a feed client display it in a "friendly" view, which makes IE9, and other browsers think it is actually a website, and hence does not enable feed view mode.

There are two quick and simple workarounds for this.

The fastest in my opinion is to hit ALT to open the traditional style menu, click Tools and make your way down to Feed discovery, accessing any feed listed there will display it in feed mode.

Subscribing to an RSS feed in Internet Explorer 9

Alternatively you can turn on the command bar, which can be done by right-clicking on an empty area of IE9's user interface, an empty area next to a tab for example, and choosing Command bar from the menu. That'll turn the command bar, with the Home, Feed, Print, Page, Tools options that IE has had for the last two versions.

Subscribing to an RSS feed in Internet Explorer 9

Clearing up some confusion over Internet Explorer 9

Crawling across the internets as I have a tendency to do has as usual brought plenty of ignorant comments to my attention. Today about Internet Explorer 9. It always amazes me how willing people are to spout off about something they know nothing or little about. So let's tackle some of them.

I am guessing this is on a PC that has been specially optimised by Microsoft to run its browser content as fast as possible by breaking from web standards?
Another situation where things can already be done on all other browsers perfectly well, but now web developers will be forced to tailor their sites specifically to cater for more Internet Explorer specific quirks.

And you're guessing wrong. Completely wrong. Internet Explorer 9 is just faster. Orders of magnitude faster on graphically intensive websites. How? Because it uses DirectX and the GPU to help out.

Haven't had a chance to look if this uses open web standards but, if it doesn't, it's a return to the good old days of IE6, which mucked around with what everyone else was trying to do on the web and ended with having to hack sites to work in MS browsers.

This is the sort of line trotted out by the Firefox crowd. Web standards as if there is only one gold plated standard that can never change, and to which a browser is either completely compliant or not. Internet Explorer 6 did support web standards that were finished when it was released. Such as HTML4 and CSS1. Internet Explorer was the first browser to fully support CSS1.

The standards that most of the Firefox guys refer to is CSS2.1. Between the releases of IE6 and 7. CSS2 was essentially canned because IE, Netscape, Mozilla and Opera rendered everything so inconsistently with each other.

CSS2.1 was developed to try and sort these problems out but didn't reach candidate recommendation status until 2004, and was quickly moved back to draft to work out a slew of problems with it. It only re-emerged as recommended back in 2007.

So it wasn't that Internet Explorer 6 didn't support standards - it did. It just didn't support CSS2.1, well that's no surprise since CSS2.1 was finalised 6 years after it was released. But by around 2005 the web developer crowd decided they all wanted to use CSS, even for things its really bad at such as controlling layout.

Internet Explorer 7 hit all the main CSS2.1 features that were commonly being used, and Internet Explorer 8 pretty much finished up CSS2.1 support. But even to this day, no browser on the planet supports every feature of CSS2.1, heck they don't even support all the features of HTML4.

Does that mean there aren't any standards compliant browsers? So as you see standards compliance is a sort of funny phrase in the browser world. The proper question to ask would be does it support standard X, and does it support feature Y from standard X, and is standard X even finished yet, or could it change?

Internet Explorer 9's standard support include almost complete support for HTML4, and CSS2.1. And partial support for HTML5 and CSS3. And a bunch of other stuff I don't use like SVG, DOM and all this other stuff. Which is pretty much the same as every other browser out there at the moment.

Neither HTML5 or CSS3 are finished yet, so naturally browsers have to be conservative with implementing features from them, if the standard changed before being released, you'd have one body of developers and browsers rendering things in the old draft way, essentially breaking the web again like back with CSS2. We've seen this trend happening far too much in the technology world lately, what with all the Draft N wireless devices about, all of which could have been rendered obsolete if the final N standard changed. To be completely honest implementing standards which are still under development is just asking for trouble.

Open platforms which allow you to customise and build your own methods of working are the future, and until Microsoft see that this is the way the tide is turning, rather than developing closed systems that require, say, a shiny expensive Office suite to work correctly, they will continue to be shunned by the cool kids.

Office 2010 reads and writes to Office Open XML also known as ISO/IEC 29500 Transitional. This is an international standard that anybody can implement. it also reads and writes OpenDocument also known as ISO/IEC 26300. Another open standard. Office hasn't been using closed, hard to read binary formats in years. Try and keep up.

It's a Windows only browser. Nobody developing websites is going to only include Windows users. There are so many mobile Internet users now. The future of the web is in the palm, so that's smartphones and tablets.

Err, if developers write to the standards they don't need to target IE9. That's the point of standards, remember? It's just the people using it have a better experience.

To make the IE9/Windows 7 features really shine only takes a couple of lines of code. Amazon do it, Twitter are doing it, Facebook and doing it, and I'm doing it too.

Oh and by the way Windows = >90% of my visitors across my websites. Mobile = <5%.

very surprised that your article completely missed the fact that 6 out of 10 windows users are running XP which microsoft in their wisdom have decided cannot use IE9 - if i made the decision to roll out one of my key new products to only 40 percent of my existing customer base, not sure i would make it out of the office alive....!

Correct. IE9 won't work on Windows XP, not out of simply choice. But because Windows XP doesn't support the technologies to do this well. Namely DirectX10 and Direct2D both of which were introduced with Windows Vista.

Anyway can you imagine how bad IE9 would look with the bright fisher-price style UI of Windows XP going around it? Yuck.

""Instead of using 10% of the power on your PC, we're now using 100%," says Leila Martine, who runs the Windows consumer business in the UK."

and what will happen to those of us who run other applications at the same time? will everything else slow down to a crawl?

Don't be daft. She's not talking about using 100% of your CPU, she's talking about making use of the hardware in your machine. It uses less CPU than other browsers because it dumps more of the work onto the GPU, which normally is sat there idling away.

What's IE9's Acid3 score? :) IE7 manages a piddling 12%, IE8 20% (according to the screenshot on Wikipedia), FF 3.6.10 manages 94% and most WebKit browsers 100%...

It's 95, you know it really isn't hard to find out. It won't support the remaining features that Acid3 uses because they're not going to be part of a standard.

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