This week’s discovery: a bug with IE7’s CSS handling (I’m sure you’re all very surprised), and the workaround.
The bug: I have rollover submenus, set up with CSS. In Firefox and Safari they behave as expected: the submenu pops up on rollover, and then you can navigate the mouse to the submenu item you want and click on it. In IE7, when you try to navigate to the submenu items, as soon as your pointer moves off the rollover-trigger item, the submenu vanishes. Most irritating.
The eventual solution was to give the submenu a background image (also in CSS). This background image doesn’t need to actually exist (mine doesn’t, to save creating a transparent one) - just the call to it seems to be sufficiently to counter the bug. I confess to having no idea whatsoever why this works, but work it does. In fact you probably do want the background image file to exist (to avoid errors in your logs), but just touching it will be fine.
(I would like to extend intense gratitude to whoever it was put me onto this; unfortunately I went through so many different sites over the hour or so I spent struggling with this that I don’t know who or where it was that I found the idea. I’m still very grateful to them, though.)
Last month distro-review ran an article titled 10 ways that Linux is outgrowing the stereotype and becoming the best OS. While I agreed with all 10 points in the article something just didn’t sit right with me. I bookmarked the article and gave it a good long think. My conclusion: the facts are correct but there are problems with both the premise and the goal of the article.
My problem with the premise is in the opening paragraph:
I’m occasionally asked “why do you bother with Linux?” by people who haven’t used it recently under the assumption that it’s difficult to use, counter intuitive, geeky, nerdy and any number of other adjectives.
I hear that too. People who tried Linux back in the ’90s often came to that conclusion and haven’t tried it since. Microsoft, Apple, and their supporters certainly do all they can to maintain that stereotype.
Having said that, the question I here far more often from non-technical people is “What’s Linux?” Outside technical circles a lot of people have never heard of Linux or if they have heard the name it simply didn’t register. Think about the recent Apple commercials. You know, the ones that start with “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC”. They make the assumption that PCs all run Windows and that Macs all run Mac OS X. So do most people.
In the next sentence the article states its goal:
However it is my intention to raise awareness that Linux is remarkably usable these days, so on that note let’s start looking at how Linux has outgrown that stereotype.
The article then details all the wonderful advances in Linux. It’s all accurate and spelled out in clear language. There’s only one problem: these points all assume you have Linux installed and running or, at the very least, that Linux installation is a no-brainer. The sad fact is that the average Joe or Jane user has never installed an operating system and probably never will. They use what comes on the computer. Changing operating systems is too much work to even consider. Why should they if they think their computer is working just fine for them? They need a reason to want to learn something new and do extra work that they think, rightly or wrongly, is difficult. What’s the incentive for them?
Radio silence here of late as I have been moving old website to new website; a process which is time-consuming and gives rise to a very long to-do list, but which isn’t remotely interesting to anyone else. Although I have discovered that IE7 handles CSS boxes, percentages, and padding differently from Firefox/Safari/Opera. (This irritates but does not surprise me.)
I’ve also been dealing with some user queries about compiling Fortran. Can anyone recommend a good online beginner’s tutorial on the general subject of makefiles, or on the specific subject of makefiles for Fortran? Or a decent Fortran book?
Just over a year ago, Greg Kroah-Hartman announced the Linux Driver Project, which combined education and mentoring with the promise to write Linux drivers for any hardware manufacturer willing to work with the project.
Greg has just released the Linux Driver Project Status Report as of April 2008. LWN has comments at A Linux Driver Project status report.
Greg’s comments are particularly interesting:
The Linux Driver Project (LDP) is alive and well, with over 300
developers wanting to participate, many drivers already written and
accepted into the Linux kernel tree, and many more being currently
developed. The main problem is a lack of projects. It turns out that
there really isn’t much hardware that Linux doesn’t already support.
Almost all new hardware produced is coming with a Linux driver already
written by the company, or by the community with help from the
After much cajoling and harassment on my part, I’m happy to say that the
Linux Foundation’s Vendor Advisory board’s top 10 list of things that need to
be worked on with Linux doesn’t mention drivers at all.
So let’s put this myth to rest once and for all please.
Of course, the quality of support of certain devices is still an issue — in particular certain wireless cards and, as always, 3D devices.
Instant Messaging for Introverts
This is an excellent article about the intrusiveness of modern “always on” communications tools, especially instant messaging. The author framed it as an introvert vs. extrovert problem, which I’m not sure is a correct assessment- to me it’s manners vs. rudeness. Some folks think because they have instant messaging it’s OK to be constantly interrupted, or to constantly interrupt other people for every trivial thing. Well, no, it’s not OK.