IE8 Finds New Ways To Fuck Up Rendering

I’m used to many things not working properly or as expected in IE6 and IE7, but Microsoft has managed to figure out new ways to mess up rendering in IE8.

Here’s a simple example:

<div style=”position: absolute; background-color: #f00; height: 24px; left: 0px; right: 0px; top: 0px;”>I am a menu bar</div>

Try to guess what IE8 will do with it.

Now try to figure out how to fix it. Hint: width 100% will not work.

Vista Naming Conventions

One of the first things Windows veterans notice upon switching to Vista is that “My Computer” has gone. It’s been replaced, of course, with “Computer”.

Obviously, Microsoft originally chose to name the icon “My Computer” in the interests of usability. They wanted the user to realize that the icon referred to the computer they were using and not some random computer, or the concept of a “computer” in general, and didn’t want to give the icon a stupidly long name such as “the computer you’re currently using, yes, this one” which, obviously, would be more precise (since most Windows computers are in fact “The Man’s Computer” or “Dad’s Computer” or “The incredibly crappy computer the school bought five years ago and never upgraded”. Of course in the interest of usability, Microsoft wanted to be precise, but not waste too much menu space.

But it seems that Apple’s infatuation with “usability” has begun to infect Microsoft to the point where they’re willing to drop the highly informative “My” from in front of all kinds of things, allowing veteran users to become horribly confused.

The “usability” fascists have been hard at work elsewhere, e.g. renaming certain standard applications such as “Outlook Express” to “Windows Mail”. Here, Microsoft is not only looking to Apple’s approach to “usability” (Apple’s Mail application is helpfully called “Mail”) but also to Open Source’s desire to keep branding clear (e.g. carefully referring to Firefox as “Mozilla Firefox” so you’ll find it under “M” instead of “F” and won’t confuse it with all those other Firefox programs, or helpfully putting a “K” in front of anything associated with KDE so that people will know it’s KDE Mail and not, say, GNU Mail; living in Alabama I can think of another organization that would heartily approve). So instead of “Outlook Express” (which might be confused with a “faster” version of Outlook) we have “Windows Mail”. It’s also good to know that you’ll be able to find “Windows Mail” under “W” along with all your other frequently used applications (such as “Windows Mobility Center” and “Windows Live Messenger Download”) in long alpha-sorted menus.

Might it be too radical to suggest that with Windows 7 Microsoft might consider dropping spurious branding from things like “Mail” and sort applications by their name or function instead of vendor?

Microsoft Declares War

Microsoft has launched ads specifically mocking Apple’s ads (which themselves mocked Microsoft) and Ballmer has been quoted bad-mouthing Apple more and more often of late (most recently and somewhat bizarrely, denigrating Microsoft’s own Office for Mac).

For a long time, Microsoft made more money on each Mac sold than on each PC sold. This is probably because most Mac users bought a rather expensive copy of Microsoft Office whereas most PC users got theirs bundled or used copies from work (which Microsoft allows, indeed probably encourages to prevent competitors from having any chance of selling anything to anyone). I doubt this is still the case since many Mac users get by just fine with the cheaper, more pleasant, and for many purposes superior iWork.

It’s sad for Microsoft that it’s attacking Apple just as Apple gets to the point where it really doesn’t need Microsoft for anything. If Microsoft, for example, threatened to stop developing Office for Mac today, Apple would probably just laugh at them. OpenOffice.org provides a workable replacement for Office if you desperately need an ugly but serviceable Office suite, and if Apple wanted to, it could throw its UI prettification team at OOo, or it could simply add a few features to Pages and Numbers (Keynote is already, effectively, on par with Powerpoint).

Meanwhile, iPhone has been making WinCE … oh wait I mean Mobile Windows or whatever it’s called today … look silly, and Apple has stolen a huge share of the “PC market that actually makes money” leaving Microsoft’s cohorts to fight over the 2% margin Walmart market. If Apple makes a couple of fairly obvious moves with the App store and iPhone/iPod Touch games market, it could make Microsoft’s money-losing foray into the console games market look pretty sad too.

Declaring war was probably stupid at any time, but declaring war when you’ve already lost is really stupid.

Inconvenience without Security

Apparently there’s news of an exploit that completely hoses Vista’s security and which probably can’t be fixed. Before the Microsoft-haters all start celebrating, let me make a couple of observations.

  • It’s not clear whether the general approach taken might not be equally effective against other operating systems.
  • The people discussing this exploit seem entirely too gleeful. Remember, you’re supposed to be good guys looking for security holes so we can fix them before bad guys take advantage of them.

“… the genius of this is that it’s completely reusable. They have attacks that let them load chosen content to a chosen location with chosen permissions. That’s completely game over.”

That just doesn’t sound like a dispassionate researcher reporting significant findings that may be of concern to us all. It sounds more like someone relishing Microsoft’s discomfort, or maybe Hudson — that guy in Aliens who totally loses it.

Here’s a link to the actual paper.

Game over man.

Note: the actual researchers are quite reasonable and their paper is entirely aimed at helping Microsoft and other vendors improve their platforms’ security. The guy I was quoting was “popular security researcher” Dino Dai Zovi. I think he’s popular because he says insane crap like that.

Why I Hate Microsoft

I couldn’t put it better than Pierre Igot has. Microsoft’s lack of attention to detail with user interface design is so thorough it’s quite mind-boggling. (I remember methodically going through Word for Windows 2.0’s menus and finding that the commands in each menu adhered to different interface conventions. Marvellous.)

There was a great article in the New Yorker a few years back (by Louis Menand, their chief pedant) about how Microsoft Word seems to be designed to prevent anyone from adhering to any respectable style guide. (Actually it was a diatribe against Word masquerading as a review of the latest edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.)

The first thing I do with a new installation of Word is fix the incredibly stupid autocorrect settings which prevent, for example, users from typing (c) (which is replaced by ©). I’ve never even tried to fix its idiotic, non-standard keyboard shortcuts, but command-G would definitely be top of my list.

Thanks to John Gruber at Daring Fireball for the first link.