QuirksBlog monthlies

This is the monthly archive for February 2010.

Political blog split off QuirksBlog trunk

Permalink | in Politics
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I have decided to follow Dutch politics a bit more openly and to blog about it. Still, I don’t want to force this content on people that are just interested in web development. According to my own calculations the number of non-Dutch readers that are interested in Dutch politics is about twelve, so for those twelve, as well as the more sizable group of Dutch followers interested in politics, I’ve now created a politics homepage and blog.

Swept away by the literally two requests from non-Dutch readers, I’ve also decided to publish my political primer, which will ideally consist of eleven long background articles, of which only the first eight are written. I will publish one article every Wednesday until I run out of material.

Here on the main QuirksBlog I may write some stuff about the JavaScript graph functions I created for the primer (parliament graphs, tables). Unfortunately, right now any JavaScript-focused article would mainly consist of a long list of features I haven’t implemented yet. Most of the graphs aren’t really keyboard-accessible, for instance, because I’m not happy with the idea of adding dozens of useless <a> elements just to make parts of the graphs keyboard-focusable.

All in all I’m hurrying to catch up with events. I hadn’t planned to publish any of this, but the government crisis has forced my hands. Please excuse the occasional wart or bug.

Dutch government falls over Afghanistan

Permalink | in Politics
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As long-time visitors know I occasionally talk about Dutch politics here for the benefit of my Dutch readers as well as those twelve foreign readers that are interested in these matters. Since Dutch government fell late yesterday night, it’s time for another such post.

The Balkenende IV government (i.e. the fourth government that Balkenende (CDA) was prime minister of) was formed three years ago and consists of centre-right CDA (christian-democrats), centre-left PvdA (Labour), and orthodox-protestant left-leaning CU (Union of Christians). Yesterday evening the PvdA ministers resigned over a conflict about the continuing Dutch military presence in the Afghan province of Uruzgan.

In a week and a half local elections will be held, and the PvdA was slated to lose a lot of seats everywhere. PvdA party leader and finance minister Bos clearly hopes to stem the electoral tide by his resignation, and he might well be right.

Update: This will be the last political entry on the main QuirksBlog. I now have a separate politics section with a blog as well as an article series about Dutch political history.

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Browser news from the Mobile World Congress

Permalink | in BlackBerry, Google, HTML5 apps, Mobile, Nokia, Opera Mobile/Mini, Samsung
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Yesterday evening I returned from my fourth foreign trip this year. This time I went to the Mobile World Congress, the annual Barcelona-based get-together of the mobile industry, and I can tell you, it’s something else.

This post gives an overview of announcements by mobile players that might be of interest to web developers. There’s an incredible lot of it, too, because every single major mobile player except Apple feels that MWC is the ultimate forum for major announcements.

If you know of more news, or have links to additional information, please leave a comment.

I was there because Vodafone had invited me to sit on a panel in a technical “embedded conference” about W3C Widgets and related technologies. The concept can use some fine-tuning; I’m hoping to do some of that in the future. I was there mainly to stress that the mobile browser situation is not as simple as it looks. THERE IS NO WEBKIT ON MOBILE!
While I was at it I also invented guerilla browser testing.

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The iPhone obsession

Permalink | in Apple, HTML5 apps
149 comments (closed)

Since my attempts at capturing web developers’ hearts and minds by publishing fundamental research have failed miserably but my thirst for attention continues unabated, today I will once more shout at iPhone developers. That’s proven to work.

More specifically, today I will shout at web developers who think that delicately inserting an iPhone up their ass is the same as mobile web development.

Before we start, a little thought experiment. Suppose I proposed the following:

  1. IE6 is today’s most advanced browser. (Note: this was actually true back in 2000. Please bear with me.)
  2. IE6’s market share is about 80%.
  3. The other browsers are way worse than IE6, and developing for them is a pain; something we’re not interested in and are a bit afraid of.
  4. Therefore we will develop websites exclusively for IE6.

Would you agree with those sentiments, even if we’re back in 2000 and IE6 is really the best browser we have?

Or would you reply that our sites should work as well as they can in all browsers through the use of web standards, progressive enhancement, and all the rest of the best practices we’ve been preaching for the past ten years?

I distinctly remember a time when we web developers cared about such concepts. But those times are long gone.

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Do we need touch events?

Permalink | in Touch events
13 comments (closed)

One reaction I received about my touch research was: Do we really need the touch events? Can’t we just fire the mouse events when a touch action occurs? After all, touch and mouse events aren’t that different.

That’s a fair question. It deserves a fair answer.

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Persistent touch event objects

Permalink | in Touch events
3 comments (closed)

It turns out to be possible to handle the touchmove and touchend events with data obtained from the touchstart event object. It is not necessary to access the touchmove and touchend event objects, as long as you continue to have access to the touchstart one.

Apparently, the touchstart event object persists in browser memory even when the event has long ended. More importantly, it continues to be updated with information about the current touch action.

This is interesting. It’s also profoundly different from the desktop, where a similar trick with the mousedown, mousemove, and mouseup events definitely does not work.

Both iPhone and Android display this behaviour. Therefore future implementations of the touch events should, too.

Update: I’ve been given to understand that this behaviour will disappear from WebKit. So don’t build your scripts with this behaviour; they’ll misfire sooner or later.

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The touch action

Permalink | in Touch events
14 comments (closed)

Over the past few weeks I have done some fundamental research into the touch action and its consequences, and it’s time to present my conclusions in the form of the inevitable compatibility table. I have also written an advisory paper that details what browser vendors must do in order to get by in the mobile touchscreen space. Finally, I discuss a few aspects of my research in this article.

Disclosure: This research was ordered and paid for by Vodafone. Nokia, Microsoft, Palm, and RIM have helped it along by donating devices to me.

When a user touches the screen of a touchscreen phone, sufficient events should fire so that web developers know what’s going on and can decide what actions to take. Unfortunately most mobile browsers, especially Opera and Firefox, are severely deficient here.

The touch action is way overloaded, and most browsers have trouble distinguishing between a click action and a scroll action. Properly making this distinction is the only way of creating a truly captivating mobile touchscreen browsing experience.

The iPhone’s touch event model is excellent and should be copied by all other browsers. In fact, these events are so important that I feel that any browser that does not support them by the end of 2010 is out of the mobile browser arms race. There’s only one problem with the iPhone model, and it’s relatively easy to fix.

I have created a drag-and-drop script that works on iPhone and Android as well as the desktop browsers, a multitouch drag-and-drop script that works only on the iPhone, and a scrolling layer script that forms the basis of faking position: fixed on iPhone and Android, who do not support that declaration natively.

I will hold a presentation on my research at the DIBI conference, Newcastle upon Tyne, 28th April. It will likely include future discoveries and thoughts.

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See the January 2010 archive.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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