For Father’s Day, my daughter painted a picture of me riding a unicorn, with Turkish dancing girl attendant. I’m killing two goose-stepping Nazis with a “lazor gun” below a caption reading “with the power of HTML5″.
It’s going on the door of my newly-decorated office.
Made by someone commenting in Haavard Moen’s post about the announcement of "native HTML5", this video does NOT represent Opera’s official position, but it did make me laugh. Personally, I like "native HTML5". It’s important that it not be tainted with our "modern ways", but preserved for diversity reasons (thx @stommepoes!).
On my old Windows Phone I had a lovely program called MyMobiler to view your mobile screen on your desktop, which you installed and Just Worked.
Not so easy on Android, it appears. I found Android screencast but couldn’t get it working on Windows. So I tried it on Ubuntu; still no joy. When Ubuntu, hacking and things not working coincide, the way forward is to invite Stuart Langridge out to the Opera-Canonical Temple of Synergies and buy him beer while he swears at your machine, Google, Oracle, Ubuntu and anyone in the immediate vicinity. (“Java! You’re a massive cock-bubble!” was one exasperated highlight.)
This took me ages to discover (and hat-tip to Sarah Bourne for the answer) so I’m posting it as it might help someone else.
If you suddenly start getting this error when doing backups on Windows 7, run a full security scan and kill any quarantined viruse. (I use the free-to-download Microsoft Security Essentials.)
Why the error message is so stupidly unhelpful, and why Windows back-up doesn’t simply carry on in the legitimate assumption that you’d rather not backup quarantined viruses, are just two of the many mysteries of the universe.
I had to smile to see some young whippersnapper ask “What are the Windows A: and B: drives used for?“, and thought back to when I started using computers that were even pre-floppy drive (you saved and loaded from a cassette tape and sat listening to the high-pitched noise as it loaded for 10 minutes with fingers crossed in case of data error), and decided to write down my favourite computer war story of prehistoric times.
Between 1988 and 1993 I worked for a very large computer services company, writing VAX/VMS Fortran and Cobol programs that drove an “online” Viewdata service that allowed the dealer network of a British car company to record sales and arrange finance. No program module could be more than 8K, I recall – so fripperies like comments, meaningful variable names or 4 digit year numbers were luxuries we couldn’t afford.
At night, the service was suspended while batch jobs ran to produce great big magnetic taps of data that were taken by motorcycle courier from the West Midlands to London in time for the BACS run at 7 am, when the banks did all their transactions. If you missed the BACs run, the previous day’s sales were not debited form the customers’ accounts and therefore not credited to the car dealer. Because of this, members of the team took it turns to carry a pager so that we could be contacted if there was a problem outside office hours (no mobile phones then!).
In the early hours of the morning of 2nd of August 1991, I was disturbed in flagrante delicto by my work pager chirruping. I phoned the operator at our computer data centre to be told that one of the batch jobs had failed with an inscrutable error message. Of course, these days I’d open my laptop and search the Web, but way back then I had no option to get a taxi into the data centre and go to the big cupboard full of the big orange ring binders that contained the manuals.
The error message told me that a data type had overflowed. A further 30 minutes led me to conclude that the running total of sales value was being stored in an INTEGER*4 variable. Because it was an integer, it was being tallied in pence rather than pounds – and at £55m (or 5.5 billion pence) the number was too big to store in 4 bytes. The previous day’s trading, 1st of August, was the first day of the new registration year, so everyone had rushed to be the first on their street/in their office to have the newest registration plate.
Another half hour with cigarettes, vending machine coffee while looking at the manuals suggested that I could substitute a REAL*4 variable and tally in pounds with two significant decimal places for the pennies. With no time for fripperies like testing my theory, I recompiled and relinked all the programs and ran the batch job again as dawn was breaking.
The leathered-up motorcycle guy was in Reception by this point. “It’s going to start getting busy on the M25″ he warned as we mounted the tapes to write to.
It was with a queasy feeling that I checked the logs before writing the tape to make sure that the grand total was £55million. If I’d got it wrong, I would rather not send a tape to the bank at all than send a tape that erroneously debited £5million or £550million. I was also painfully aware that I had no authority to take such a decision—and a day’s interest on that kind of money was not trivial. But by the time I had found the number of someone with such authority, phoned him, awoken him, explained the position to he could take the decision, it would be too late.
Success – the total was correct! While the courier grumbled that he was going to perhaps exceed the 70mph speed limit on British motorways, the tape was written, boxed up and put in the cycle paniers. As the courier roared off, I wearily got into a taxi back to my sleeping lady-friend, to shave and shower to start work at 8.30 again.
You young ‘uns with your APIs and debugging consoles. You don’t know you’re born.
One day, I am going to get rich by doing post-implementation reports on public sector websites (if such a thing as “public sector” remains, of course).
From my experience at the Law Society, and reading reports such as this one, I could easily produce a template document citing the usual reasons for the deadline-breaking, budget-demolishing usability atrocities that get commissioned, and then I’d just slot in the client organisation’s name and charge them a few grand.
I would use the Birmingham report as a basis, as I’ve already paid for it with my council tax and it lists (or hints at) all the depressingly usual suspects:
CMSs are bought off-the-shelf, massively customised to the point that they’re unstable and no-one knows how they work any more
organisational disdain for their own employees’ accumulated vital knowledge and experience
obsessive organisational risk-aversion
managers with no understanding of how the web works being put in charge of projects
Joking aside, I’m not qualified to judge how accurate this report is, but it rings true, except for one vital area.
The report’s authors offer advice on enhancing the accessibility of the site. The advice is wrong.
I can’t find the names of the authors to judge their qualifications to pontificate on accessibility but the inaccuracy of terminology of the assertion “W3C rules state that an ‘alt tag’ should be used on all images” makes me uncertain that they really know what they’re talking about (there is no “alt tag” as there is no alt element in HTML).
Section 13.3.2 says
…a visually-challenged visitor should be able to increase the font-size and to change text and background colours to make the site legible for him or her. It is possible for an individual to change the font size using their browser settings but it is not possible on the BCC site to do this on the web pages themselves.
Section 13.3.3 says
… Browsealoud (http://www.browsealoud.com/ ) is recommended by many bodies including the RNIB. Many visually-impaired people use the system and it is enabled on many government and local government websites – including a subsidiary standalone site of the BCC (www.adultcareinbrum.org.uk – see below).
Systems like these allow a visitor to listen to the content of a site, thereby making it accessible to those with visual, literacy, and dyslexia challenges.
We recommend that Browsealoud or another similar system be implemented on the main BCC site.
Browsealoud costs money. It’s basically a plugin that reads text, but has none of the navigational functionality that fully-fledged screenreaders have. The site owner pays to have their web site added to a whitelist contained within the plugin.
Extensions such as Opera’s Voice (select text, right click, “speak”), Firevox for Firefox, built-in screenreaders on the operating system such as Micrsoft Narrator or Apple Voiceover perform this job without requiring the council to spend money, and (most importantly) at greater utility for the consumer. Browsealoud (or similar plugin) requires that the user learn a new way of interacting with this specific website; using the alternatives I list above enhance the user’s experience on every site she visits.
It appears that during development of the site, Birmingham City Council procured four third-party accessibility audits of the website, all of which mention non-resizeable text (but recommend setting it in CSS with relative units rather than coding text resize widgets). None recommends browsealoud or similar plugins.
I hope that Birmingham does not follow the two accessibility recommendations of the post-implementation report, until it can demonstrate that the authors of that report have significantly greater experience and knowledge of accessibility than the authors of the 4 accessibility audits I obtained under my Freedom of Information request.
This is a personal post and not the opinions of my employer, wife, children or hamster.
Other people have expressed surprise that I had never been to SxSW before (last year I had the chance to go to India so went there instead) and it was with some trepidation that I went to bring the good news about Opera, HTML5 and give the Texas ladies the chance of some hot lovin'.
I very much liked Austin - or "Steve" as I like to call it - and it's become my new favourite American city; I used to like San Francisco but against Steve, it feels a bit like Brighton - too self-consciously cool to be relaxing.
I didn't see many talks as I had to be a boothbunny, but (to be brutally honest) I wasn't terribly impressed with those I did make it to. The panel format seemed a bit like paying to watch at a circlejerk, with everyone agreeing and congratulating each other, although I was impressed with some. The parties were not my thing either; I'm decades past queuing for an hour for a chance to shout at people you want to talk to (bah humbug get off my lawn). The free drinks in the lobby of my hotel every evening was far more conducive to chatting, sharing a laptop and doing the things I like to do with interesting people.
Fortunately, the "interactive workshop" I presented (which was actually a traditional presentation; there's no workshop potential with 400+ people in a room) was on Sunday so I had a couple of days to relax afterwards. (Slides are available for your downloading pleasure). It was a full house, with some great feedback ("Bruce Lawson is like an open-source Steve Jobs") - thanks all! Special thanks to Martin Kliehm for inviting me to take part in the 3 hour extravaganza he curated.
One of the highlights was talking to real customers on the booth. Many challenged our "fastest browser" claim, and went away pleasantly surprised when they found their own sites rendering so speedily. It was also great to blow the "Opera has a bad UI" bullshit out of the water.
The other highlight was meeting so many people that I know on the Web, but rarely meet in real life—people like the unrepentant hardliner, John Foliot, baby-eating Matt May and lovely people who I'd never actually met before, like Allan Kent (on-line friend since 2003), Jared Smith of WebAim and the best-dressed lady in Web, Nimbupani.
That nice Dan Oliver from .net magazine did an interview with me:
I got to eat a burger (Whataburger!) for breakfast, hang in the Media Temple VIP room, wear a Mexican wrestling mask and a glittery camisole. There are a few photos, fewer memories and, apart from liver made of paté and terminal jetlag, I survived my first South By SouthWest.
Inspired by Shelley Powers who quipped “HTML5, it is a changing” on Twitter, I in turn said I was gonna write a Dylanesque song about HTML5. Of course, between that time and the time I got to the next available WiFi point, Jeff Allen wrote the song.
Opera’s Man in Japan, Daniel Davis, gave us a touching rendition on his ukelele:
In homage to the man known as “Ukelele-San” from Sapporo to Nagasaki, as well as to Molly, Shelley, Jeff, Hixie and His Bobness, I offer my rendition: