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Current ALA: Scope Creep
Recent Glamour: The Velvet Fist
Controversy: 99.9% of Websites are Obsolete (Digital Web)
Design: CA Interactive Winners (Communication Arts)

24 September 2002
OS X Blues II, a software version of Saving Private Ryan. :::

23 September 2002
[noon | 11 am]
A tip for web publishers seeking wider recognition: keep producing. Content, design, and usability matter, but all three improve with time — and many web users will forgive defects of content, design, and usability if they feel there is a live presence behind your site. If you slack off (as we did with A List Apart over the summer) you’ll lose readers. If you persist even when you are busy with other work, you’ll maintain and grow a following. The site that keeps going will keep being read. It is that simple.

We’ve added a correction and an additional thought to yesterday’s OS X Blues Update.
        Two Windows users of our acquaintance who’ve switched to OS X are ecstatically happy, and most Mac users we know who switched to OS X months ago are also quite satisfied — indeed some claim to feel pain when they occasionally have to use Classic.
        Conversion is like moving to a new apartment. You get higher ceilings and a balcony but you miss your old doorman, and the new corner store does not carry your favorite brand of juice.

As we hinted in yesterday’s Report, today’s MeyerWeb includes a fixed version of KPMG that works as well in Mozilla and Opera as it does in IE. Eric Meyer made the fixes on his own initiative in about 150 minutes, merely to prove that the makers of the KPMG site do not have to exclude non-IE browser users, and he is making his fixes available to the site’s owners free of charge. :::

22 September 2002
[1 pm]
Hal Helms’s “Scope Creep” article in Issue No. 150 of A List Apart is beginning to generate lively discussion.

An article at IBM says XHTML 2.0’s lack of backward compatibility with XHTML 1.0 is a good thing.

Eric Meyer found KPMG’s inability to render in Mozilla or Opera (see Friday’s Report) is caused by faulty browser detection and outdated scripting assumptions. Expect an update on soon. :::

OS X Blues Update

Yesterday’s lengthy OS X Blues spawned truckloads of reader mail, which we were able to read inside OS X by clean installing OS 9.2 on the same drive as OS X 10.2.1 Jaguar. We had to borrow the OS 9.2 installer disk since Apple doesn’t ship them any more, and we had to “clean install” to compel the installer to do its job.

Apple’s message boards indicate that OS X 10.2.1 prevents Classic from working for many Mac users on many kinds of Macs. What we experienced appears to have been a bizarre version of this crippling of OS 9 inside the latest version of OS X. Many programs, from Quark to SpellCatcher, have not been updated for OS X, which is why you need Classic.

Which is why Classic should work, not fail, in the latest version of OS X. And why Apple should include an OS 9.2 installation disk along with its relatively pricey OS X upgrade. And why the OS X installer, which is smart in so many other ways, should check for the presence of OS 9.2 before running, and if it fails to find OS 9.2, should tell you to run the OS 9.2 disk first to avoid useless installations of OS X that send you fleeing back to the comfort and safety of OS 9.

But all Macs sold after January 2003 will boot only in OS X, which may be why Apple no longer includes the vital OS 9.2 disk. If that’s Apple’s thinking, they’re running ahead of reality. Even OS X fans need to boot into 9 to accomplish certain tasks that OS X’s rigid Unix permissions make impossible. (For instance, you can customize the Dock by replacing its graphics, but only if you reboot in OS 9.)

[Correction 23 September: Actually you can replace OS X graphics or do anything else you like by creating a superuser account in Terminal and logging in to that account. Once in, you can make all kinds of changes — even dangerous ones — from within the Mac OS X GUI. But using Terminal requires Unix knowledge or at least a set of instructions; and a major Mac selling point prior to X was that Mac OS was far easier to use than any other operating system. Apple has traded off some of that ease of use to achieve more logical, lower-cost software development and greatly increased OS stability, both of which are worthy goals. Thanks: Glenn and Waferbaby.]

We were able to make OS X work by clean installing a borrowed copy of OS 9.2 on top of it, a practice Apple does not recommend — but if you don’t do it, Classic may not work and the attempt to load Classic may destabilize OS X, rendering it and your computer useless.

Many applications we use every day run only in OS 9, and we’ll be alternating between the two operating systems for a while.

Subjectively, we find OS X overdesigned and underflexible. Visually it is cartoonish and consumerish. (Photorealistic trash cans and hard drive icons? Technicolor spinning beach balls? Please.) Structurally it is somewhat fascist, removing all kinds of shortcuts Mac users are accustomed to, forcing you to do things one way that you used to be able to do five ways, compelling you to place files in predetermined locations instead of any old where, and breaking some applications entirely if you move them from one folder to another.

[Update 23 September: A couple of intellectuals have pointed out parallels between the rigidity of OS X, which derives its power from Unix and XML, and the rules of standards-based web development, which also compels you to do things the right way instead of using five different non-standard hacks. The parallel is not without merit. Building web pages the right way is hard at first, but once you get it, you never want to go back. Regardless, we miss OS 9’s flexibility and ease of use, and a metric ton of logic doesn’t offset that feeling of loss.]

Eventually OS X will mature into an operating system we can love like we loved OS 8 and 9. Our distaste for it is based on installation fiascoes, lack of OS X experience, loss of long-standing shortcuts and cherished shareware packages that will never be updated for OS X, and old-fashioned resistance to change. We expect our opinion of OS X to improve as we make more frequent use of it. :::

21 September 2002
[4 pm]
OS X Blues, a personal report. :::

20 September 2002
[5 pm | 11 am]
In Issue No. 150 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites: Sometimes it appears that scope creep is inevitable. Our attempts to gather our clients’s requirements early on seem futile. Scope creep deforms our schedules and makes project managers weep. Have we run out of strategies for fighting this scourge? Maybe not. Developer, teacher, and writer Hal Helms commits heresy by suggesting ways to incorporate scope creep as part of the process.
        Beginning with this issue, ALA welcomes Tanya Rabourn to the staff. Tanya produced the issue and designed the header graphic that illustrates Hal Helms’s “Scope Creep.” Tanya is an information architect and designer with a background in library science and art history. Field Notes is her blog.

What would Fridays be without Photoshop Tennis? Today’s match, now taking place live, pits Ashleigh Bolland of Phojekt against Joost Korngold of Renascent, with layer-by-layer commentary by Kevin Guilfoile of host Coudal Partners, Chicago, USA.

BOSS: “Our redesign budget is x Canadian dollars and I want the site to only work in IE.”
DEVELOPER: “Um, boss? If we use web standards our site’ll work in any browser. Won’t cost a dime more and won’t take any more time to build.”
BOSS: “Hey, hot shot, whose name do you see at the top of this org chart?”
DEVELOPER: “Yours, boss.”
BOSS: “And what does that make me?”
DEVELOPER: “That makes you the boss, boss.”
BOSS: “And what does the boss want?”
DEVELOPER: “You want a site that will fail for anyone who isn’t using IE.”
BOSS: “I’m glad we’re clear on that.”
DEVELOPER: “You’re the boss.” (Thanks: Supafamous.)

Reader Jeff Wilkinson points out that Microsoft has discontinued IE for Unix. Fortunately, Unix folks still have access to fine browsers. They just won’t be able to visit KPMG. :::

19 September 2002
[noon | 11 am]
Thanks to Brian Rudolph, Chris Hood, and Stefan Manford, whose combined efforts made the Georgia Web Developers Conference run smooth as warm butter, and thanks to all the Atlanta designers and developers who showed up.

Goodnight, Atlanta. Good morning, Budapest. We’ve been asked to keynote at the 12th International World Wide Web Conference to be held in Budapest, Hungary in May 2003.

PixelSurgeon interviews Peter Gabriel on the verge of the release of his new album, Up. Gabriel has not released an album in nine years. If you fly Delta Airlines in the next few weeks, as we just did, you can hear some of Gabriel’s new tracks. Even over the hollow plastic tube headphones, you can detect the sophistication of production that has always been part of Gabriel’s sound.

K10k is requesting donations to offset Powerbook replacement costs for site co-founder Token Nygaard. The non-commercial design site, beloved the world over, has never asked its readers for a dime. Token without a Mac is like Mario Andretti without a car.

The W3C and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have issued a call for papers for the NIST Usability Workshop. The workshop is interested in the usability of W3C specifications, how W3C specs affect the usability of software based on them, and how to improve the overall usability of the web.

The current issue of Digital Web Magazine includes an Introduction to XML by J. David Eisenberg, steering committee member of The Web Standards Project and frequent contributor to A List Apart Magazine. David is one of two technical editors on Forward Compatibility, our upcoming book for New Riders.

The current Digital Web also includes the first official parody of 99.9% of Websites are Obsolete: “99.9% of Proper Grammar is Obsolete,” by David Wertheimer.

If you own Eric Meyer on CSS (New Riders: 2002) then you know about that book’s companion site with its projects, tools, and bonus materials. Designers constantly ask us how they can get up to speed on CSS as a practical tool for building usable, commercial sites. We recommend Eric’s book. Speaking of which, Consolation Champs has announced the winner of its Eric Meyer on CSS Haiku Contest.

Eric is the other technical editor on our upcoming book. Basically we can just drool into our keyboard and Eric and David will turn it into something worth reading. Steven Champeon of tech-edited our previous book, and if it has any technical merit, you can thank him.

In his copious free time, Steven Champeon has begun creating CSS renderings of photographs. Click any thumbnail to load a pixel map formed of pound signs surrounded by CSS span tags that refer to a color map built amost entirely of CSS classes. “They’re even run-length optimized, so if you have ten pixels of the same color, it only uses the one span,” Champeon tells us.

OS X 10.2, a heap of OS X-compatible software, and a giant new hard drive continue to sit in their shipping crates in a corner of our studio until we can finish urgent projects for Clear Channel Entertainment and Fox Searchlight Pictures/Hillman Curtis, Inc. :::

17 September 2002
[9 am]
Off to Georgia. Back tomorrow.

A List Apart’s summer schedule remains in effect as we enter Fall, but we hope to publish a new issue this Friday and to resume regular weekly publishing very soon.

In yesterday’s Report we noted a rendering bug in IE5/OS X. One reader found a similar bug in Mozilla 1.1 in Japanese Windows XP: when loading the site with “Skin 2” preselected, the layout expands horizontally “sometimes” (most often on first viewing the page) and can be “fixed” by multiply reloading the page or by choosing Skin 1 or Skin 3. Another reader duplicated the bug in IE5 in Mac OS 8.6. We are unable to duplicate it in any browser or OS besides IE5/OS X, where it occurs consistently.

Layout bugs are a natural part of the web’s ecosystem. Your XHTML and CSS may validate and your layout may look “right” in several browsers, but with so many interdependencies at work there can be no guarantees. Apply padding to an animated gif and it may display incorrectly in Netscape 6; switch to margins instead of padding and the problem may vanish. Two words: trial and error. :::

16 September 2002
[10 am]
Tomorrow we fly to Atlanta to address the Georgia Web Developers conference. Between now and then we’re scrambling to finish the Fox Searchlight Pictures site we’re producing with Hillman Curtis. Current Fox Searchlight films of note include The Good Girl and One Hour Photo.

Several readers have commented on a bizarre IE5/OS X quirk. If you repeatedly toggle any button in the Jakob Nielsen Corner, this site’s layout begins expanding horizontally. We’ve been able to duplicate the problem in OS X 10.1.5 and OS X 10.2. The bug does not occur in any other browser or operating system to our knowledge. Microsoft’s Mac browser engineers have been informed of the oddity. :::

13 September 2002
[noon | 11 am]
Clickable Essentials and the itsy-bitsy Subnav have moved to the Jakob Nielsen Corner, above, right. You’ll need a DOM-compliant browser like Mozilla or IE5+ to work the buttons. But you know that.

After headlining at Caesars Palace, we’ve returned from Builder Las Vegas and are sifting through a pile of email the size of Wayne Newton’s dressing room.

Our conference schedule compelled us to spend September 11th in Las Vegas instead of New York City. The separation felt strange and sad. One year ago, shortly after leaving for work, she returned to the tiny, temporary apartment we were sharing in Gramercy Park and said, “The World Trade Center is gone.” :::

Gatherings of the Tribe

Fray Day celebrates the anniversary of indie site and the art of personal storytelling. Live Fray Day events will be held this weekend (September 14 & 15) in Austin, Cambridge, Copenhagen, El Paso, Grand Rapids, Guam, Los Angeles, Melbourne, San Francisco, Tucson, Arizona, and Washington DC.

Meet The Makers hits San Francisco on Monday, 21 October 2002. Featured guests include the makers of and Jeffrey Veen of HotWired/HotBot/Lycos fame. Web designers and developers in the Bay area may request a free VIP ticket to attend.
        On Wednesday, 6 November 2002, Meet the Makers returns to New York City. Guests include Hillman Curtis and the makers of more big-time websites. NYC area web designers and developers may request a free VIP ticket to attend.
        The first Meet the Makers in NYC featured interviews with the makers of DoubleClick, Monster, TV Guide Online, and The Chopping Block. We serve on Meet the Makers’s advisory board and help its founders shape one-day events worth attending.

Design is Kinky has announced a spanking new design conference, Semi-Permanent, to be held in sunny Sydney, Australia on 11-12 April, 2003. The full site will be launched in early October, 2002; for now you can join the mailing list.

On 17 September, we’ll leave for a speaking engagement at the Georgia Web Developer Conference at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta. Sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia, the conference is “a day apart: no cables, no keyboards ... just good old-fashioned brainpower.” { More » } :::

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