Eolas Nightmare Coming to an End?

After two years of patent-induced pain, Microsoft will be removing the Eolas “fix” from IE in April of next year.

At that point, users should no longer be forced to click on embedded active content (such as Flash, Java, Quicktime, or Windows Media) to interact with it after April ’08. Consequently, we will not be required forced to write out our object tags with JavaScript.

I can only hope this will come to pass! This one change was a major setback to Web Standards and Web Accessibility efforts.

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Outlook 2007 to use MS Word to render HTML…. ugh

Talk about a step backwards. In a recent announcement, Microsoft has shared its plans to have Outlook 2007 use Word’s HTML rendering engine in place of Internet Explorer’s engine.

Now, I’m not really a fan of HTML email — I generally select plain text format for any mailing lists to which I might subscribe if I have the choice — but I think it does have a place in business. Some e-newsletters are very well done, such as Musician’s Friend or Marketing Sherpa.

But if you’re going to send HTML mail, at least you could be efficient and use CSS and Web Standards to their full potential. We’ve made great strides in the past few years moving away from presentational markup, inappropriate table tags, spacer gifs, and FrontPage-esqe code cruft in Web pages. Email support for rich content has always lagged a bit behind browser support, but now we’re looking to take a huge leap backwards.

With Outlook’s massive install base, this change is pretty much the same as if Microsoft were to declare that IE 8 would use the awful HTML engine from WebTV.

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Microsoft VirtualPC is Now Free

I came across an amazing fact today. In a blog entry about how to do cross-browser testing on Windows with multiple versions of Internet Explorer, I found a note that Virtual PC for Windows is now free. Sounds like a good deal to me.

I’ve been using VPC for IE 5/5.5 testing for a while now — Win2k Pro and Server run great in a VM. Hopefully, more people will be willing to test their sites in more than just the browser they themselves use.

I haven’t seen any indication of a generally free Macintosh version, but since I’ll soon have all Intel-based Macs, I’ll just be running Parallels Desktop.

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Eolas JavaScript Fix for Flash Navigation

I think I finally have a workable solution to the Eolas IE issue with the Flash navigation on our college Web site. My hope is that we’ll be able to hit the largest audience possible with at least some measure of functionality, while simultaneously maintaining a semblance of Web Standard-itude. How’s that for ambitious?!?!

My solution is basically a three-tiered approach:

  1. Object tag-based embedding (a la the Flash Satay method) of the primary navigation bar .swf file
  2. Alternative content — an ordered list of images/links mimicking the links in the Flash swf with javascript mouseover effects. These two tiers are embedded in the page using a static JavaScript file that document.write()s the content into the page.
  3. A second set of images/links as an all-else-fails backup for users with no scripting support, served by <noscript> tags.

Some downsides:

  • Users who have no scripting, or have it turned off, will never see the Flash version, whether they have the plugin or not
  • Non-IE users will always have their navigation built with JavaScript. Seems inefficient, but without walking down the path of browser detection, I don’t see a way around this.
  • Our current set of non-Flash alternative images are PNGs, which look really awful in IE6. Hopefully we can remedy this soon.
  • With potentially two copies of the alternative content in the page (one in the JavaScript-generated object tag, the other in the <noscript> block), there may be difficulties that I’m not seeing.

I’m working on a more thorough writeup of this process to post somewhere, but that’s a summary. Feel free to poke around the code — if anyone has suggestions for improvements to the method, I’m all ears. I’m in the process of working up a solution for our QuickTime movies following a similar path, with some ideas pulled from unobtrusive JavaScript.

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IE and Eolas Patent Woes

Well, I was really hoping Microsoft would find a way out of this, but the Eolas patent “fix” to Internet Explorer 6 for Windows XP/2003 has come home to roost. It apparently rolled out in this week’s updates, despite reports of a delay in its release.

We’re now starting to get reports of problems with the Flash navigation and QuickTime movies on our college Web site from internal users.

I was overjoyed a few weeks ago when we finally got our Flash and QuickTime content to load in pages using Web Standard markup, and now the “solution” to Microsoft’s fix is to either script all tags or fork the markup for different browsers. Talk about a step backwards.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, there’s some reading material in my del.icio.us bookmarks.

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